This article was published Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.
Is becoming an "authentic leader" just an excuse for practicing a rigid management style? Bill George, who pioneered the idea, says critics don't understand what really constitutes an authentic leader.
“Authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership”
—Harvard Business Review, January 2015
In the last 10 years, authenticity has become the gold standard of leadership. This is a sea change from 2003 when I wrote Authentic Leadership. Back then, many people asked what it meant to be authentic.
Authentic Leadership was intended as a clarion call to the new generation to learn from negative examples like Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. In it, I defined authentic leaders as genuine, moral and character-based leaders:
"People of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations … who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society."
Authentic leaders demonstrate these five qualities:
- Understanding their purpose
- Practicing solid values
- Leading with heart
- Establishing connected relationships
- Demonstrating self-discipline
The following year the Gallup Institute and Professor Bruce Avolio, a well-known leadership scholar at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, organized a definitive conference on authentic leadership in which the importance of leaders’ life stories became paramount.
In spite of widespread acceptance of authentic leadership—or perhaps because of it—several authors have recently challenged the value of being authentic, claiming it is an excuse for being locked into a rigid view of one’s leadership, being rude and insensitive, refusing to change, or not adapting to one’s style to the situation. These arguments appear to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes an authentic leader. Recommendations that leaders should accept narcissism, embrace their inner jerk, or focus on themselves will not work in the long-run.
In light of this public discussion, it’s important to rediscover authentic leadership as well as examine some of the recent mischaracterizations of it.
Authentic leadership is built on your character, not your style. My mentor Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is character. It is not just a superficial question of style. It has to do with who we are as human beings and the forces that shaped us.
Style is the outward manifestation of one’s authentic leadership, not one’s inner self. To become authentic leaders, people must adopt flexible styles that fit the situation and capabilities of their teammates. At times, authentic leaders are coaches and mentors, inspiring others and empowering their teammates to lead through the most important tasks without a great deal of supervision. At other times, authentic leaders must make very difficult decisions, terminating people and going against the will of the majority, as required to meet the situational imperative. These difficult actions can be taken while still retaining their authenticity.
Authentic leaders are real and genuine. You cannot “fake it till you make it” by putting on a show as a leader or being a chameleon in your style. People sense very quickly who is authentic and who is not. Some leaders may pull it off for a while, but ultimately they will not gain the trust of their teammates, especially when dealing with difficult situations. The widespread adoption of LinkedIn, Google and increasingly networked communities means that every leader has the informal equivalent of a “Yelp” score that will come to light. If people see their leaders as trustworthy and willing to learn, followers will respond very positively to requests for help in getting through difficult times.
Authentic leaders are constantly growing. They do not have a rigid view of themselves and their leadership. Becoming authentic is a developmental state that enables leaders to progress through multiple roles, as they learn and grow from their experiences. Like superior performances in athletics or music, becoming an authentic leader requires years of practice in challenging situations.
Authentic leaders match their behavior to their context, an essential part of emotional intelligence (EQ). They do not burst out with whatever they may be thinking or feeling. Rather, they exhibit self-monitoring, understand how they are being perceived, and use emotional intelligence (EQ) to communicate effectively.
Authentic leaders are not perfect, nor do they try to be. They make mistakes, but they are willing to admit their errors and learn from them. They know how to ask others for help. Nor are authentic leaders always humble or modest. It takes a great deal of self-confidence to lead through very difficult situations.
Authentic leaders are sensitive to the needs of others. One author has postulated, and I paraphrase, “What if your real self is a jerk?” People are not born as jerks, nor does this behavior reflect their authentic selves. Rather, these individuals likely had very negative experiences early in their lives that cause them to have difficulty in managing their anger, in part because they feel like victims or feel inadequate.
Situations like these indicate the importance of processing one’s crucibles: people need not feel like victims or stuff their experiences deep inside themselves. Rather, by understanding themselves and reframing their experiences, they can find the pearl inside that represents their authentic selves. That’s why exploring who they are and getting honest feedback from their colleagues are essential elements of becoming authentic leaders. That’s what Starbucks’ Howard Schultz did in coping with the severe challenges of his youth. It is also what made the difference for Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple nine years after his 1986 termination.
For all these reasons, authentic leaders constitute the vast majority of people chosen today for the key roles in business and nonprofits. Their emergence as the predominant way of leading has resulted from all we have discovered about leadership in the past decade.
A Human-Centered Approach to Leadership Development
My 2007 book, True North, showed people how they could develop themselves as authentic leaders. Whereas Authentic Leadership was based on my personal experiences in leading, True North was built on field research drawn from in-person interviews with 125 leaders. With 3,000 pages of transcripts, it remains as the largest in-depth study of leaders ever conducted, based on first-person interviews.
Having examined the literature containing more than 1,000 studies of leaders, most of which employed third-person approaches of observations and questionnaires, our research team concluded that learning directly from these leaders about what was important to them and how they had developed would give us much richer insights than prior studies. Indeed, this proved to be the case, as we discovered the paramount importance of leaders’ life stories and the crucibles they had faced. We also learned from them how people develop into authentic leaders.
In our research, we embraced the richness of understanding leadership as a fully human endeavor. This approach built upon the pioneering work of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Douglas McGregor, Daniel Goleman and Warren Bennis. True North assembled this developmental process in an original approach that enabled people to develop themselves as authentic leaders.
In order to see how leadership has changed in the past decade, we initiated research in 2014 that focused on 47 new leaders who were more global and diverse than the original cohort. We also followed up on 90 leaders featured in True North to see how they have fared since their 2005-06 interviews. With only a couple of exceptions, we learned these leaders had remained true to their authentic selves, and had performed very well in myriad roles.
This research led to my new book, Discover Your True North, which profiles 101 leaders and describes how they developed. It also draws heavily upon classroom experiences in the Authentic Leadership Development courses at Harvard Business School, where 6,000 MBAs and executives have participated in this developmental process.
Most significantly, we learned that authentic leaders are constantly growing and learning from their leadership experiences. By taking on new challenges, they become more effective as authentic leaders. When they find themselves in entirely new situations, authentic leaders draw upon their true selves, what they have learned in past life experiences, especially their crucibles, and they learn from their new colleagues. This enables them to become more effective as leaders. This approach is similar to Stanford’s Carol Dweck's “growth mindset.”
If you want to be an authentic leader and have a meaningful life, you need to do the difficult inner work to develop yourself, have a strong moral compass based on your beliefs and values, and work on problems that matter to you. When you look back on your life it may not be perfect, but it will be authentically yours.
These recent headlines in the Wall Street Journal highlight the ongoing problem of leaders who have “gone south” and have taken their organizations with them: “Walgreens is Waiting for Answers About Theranos” ... “Attention Shareholders: Beware of the Board” ... “Credit Suisse Settles ‘Dark Pool’ Case” ... “Stanford Business School Steps Down After Affair with Wife of Direct Report” ... “Bribery Case Hits UN” ... “Volkswagen Chief Martin Winterkorn Resigns Amid Emissions Scandal” ... “VC Arrested for Insider Trading Now Accused of Defrauding His Firm”
Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer would use these headlines as examples of how “the leadership industry has failed.” Prescriptions for leaders to be more truthful are at odds with what goes on in the real word. “The ability to lie can be very useful for getting ahead,” says Pfeffer. “Manipulation is a foundation for social power…in fact; there is a reciprocal relationship between power and lying.”
And this brings us to Bill George’s latest book, Discover Your True North: Expanded and Updated. In it, George brings his wisdom, observations, examples, and practices to bear on helping leaders be something more than what Pfeffer proposes.
Author George encourages us to build on our natural leadership gifts and to stay on our “True North” track to inspire and empower others to excellence. According to George, our “True North” is the internal compass which, based on deeply held beliefs, values and principles, “represents who we are at our deepest level.” Knowing our internal compass helps when pressures and seductions detour us from achieving our purpose in life. It is our lifesaver… alerting us to get back on track when the life being lived is not aligned with who we are at the deepest level.
George’s True North needs some reconciling to Pfeffer’s belief about the reality of leadership.
Pfeffer talks about power for the sake of power, while George talks about power that flows from character. This disconnect may be attributed to the lack of good role models for those seeking to be leaders. I have observed over the years that leadership training—if not reinforced by good role models—does not lead to “True North” leadership. It is hard work to develop the type of leader George talks about. It is “The Road Less Traveled” due to the required investment of time by both the student and the role model.
For this reason, I recommend Discovering Your True North with the caveat that it be reinforced by a role model. This may be satisfied with George’s concept of a “support team” that he details in the book. I have worked with Bill George and can vouch that he is the real thing. I am sure that he provides the modeling needed to those he touches in the classroom and for those with whom he works in his consultancy.
Brief Summary of this updated edition - George revisits his NYC Times best-seller, and now business classic book, that was released in 2007. In this 2015 updated version, he integrates his personal insights gained as CEO of Medtronic and as a professor and Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School with new first-person interviews of 48 “authentic global leaders.” These leaders include many who have garnered the positive attention of the press and have inspired and empowered millions to excellence –Indra Nooyi, Jack Ma, Alan Mulally, John Mackey, Sheryl Sandberg, Michael Bloomberg, and many others. He also includes updates on the original 125 participants featured in his first book and includes a chapter on finding your “GQ” (your global quotient).
George also includes case studies of those who were seduced and took detours – Rajat Gupta (insider trading), Lance Armstrong (fraud and demonization of those who tried to reveal the truth), and Michael Baker (fraud).
It is early yet, but we all may have something to learn from what appears to be a scandal of major proportions brewing at Theranos. Did Elizabeth Holmes take time to find her “True North”? Did she take a detour? Will Theranos survive? For her, this book may be too late.
Those who read George's first book will find this updated editon to be just as inspiring. For those who missed the first book, they will find this new edition to be a treasure (and will regret having missed the 2007 edition).
This article was originally published in Catholic Business Journal.
From The Huffington Post, posted 10/28/2015
"If your goals are ambitious enough, even failure will be a good achievement."
- Laszlo Block, Google's Senior VP of People Operations
Two weeks ago I spent a day at the world's most innovative company: Google. It felt more like a college campus than a multi-billion dollar company. Yet behind the gyms, mindfulness classes, and gourmet free food, there are 20,000 engineers working furiously. Their goal: breakthrough products that transform the world.
To understand what makes Google so innovative, I studied two "insider's books:" Laszlo Bock's Work Rules and Chairman Eric Schmidt's and Jonathan Rosenberg's How Google Works. Nevertheless, it is still very difficult to figure out how Google actually works. The reason? While many companies proclaim they are egalitarian and work from the "bottom up," Google actually does. Gmail, for example, began with a "spare time" project that led to the ubiquitous electronic mailing system many of us use.
Unlike Steve Jobs' Apple, where the legendary founder had his hands on every product, Google CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergei Brin give their technical teams wide latitude to experiment. This is how Google is able to attract such brilliant innovation leaders as Arthur Levinson, former CEO of Genentech, who is leading an initiative to combat aging. Understanding Google became even more difficult this fall when it morphed into Alphabet, the holding company that not only includes Google itself, but all its remarkably creative entities like self-driving cars and Google glass.
Beginning as a research project in 1996, Google has rapidly changed the world. Since developing the most successful search algorithm, PageRank, the company has expanded far beyond web search. Since going public in 2004, Google digitized millions of books with Google Books, mapped the world with Google Maps, and generated the first mass-produced, wearable technology - Google Glass.
History demonstrates that companies become less innovative as they grow, as size and creativity are inversely proportional. Not so with Google. So what is its secret?
In "8 Pillars of Innovation", YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki gives eight ways Google stays innovative. These include the mission, idea generation and willingness to fail. One pillar she overlooked, however, was "Develop Innovation Leaders." These days there are thousands of creative innovators all over the world, but effective innovation leaders like Page and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are very rare. Yet without highly skilled innovation leaders throughout its organization, Google would never have produced so many innovative products and have so many more in its pipeline.
Take one of Google's most innovative practices: its policy of giving 20% free time to engineers to work on independent projects. Initiated in 2004, the policy has begun innovations such as Gmail, Google News, and Ad Sense, but not without controversy. It is difficult for any company to justify time for employees to work on small, side projects when the mainstream development projects are all-consuming. Without support of Google's top leadership, the policy would never have succeeded.
Ironically, Google has a history of underplaying the importance of leadership. In 2001, Page and Brin experimented with a completely flat organization, but the experiment only lasted a few months. Without clear leadership, it was difficult to communicate vision, handle logistics, and foster career development. Shortly thereafter, Schmidt became CEO, a position he held for a decade.
Since then, Google has recognized the importance of developing and hiring innovation leaders. In 2009, Google launched Project Oxygen - a three-year project to understand how the best managers at Google work. Implicit in this project was the understanding that great innovation leaders are required to drive great change. In order for Google to innovate as it has, it required the best minds in the world, and superb innovation leaders with the wisdom to know autonomy with respected inputs and challenges is required to inspire and retain high-powered innovators.
That's also why Google became the holding company Alphabet - a loosely knit collection of interdependent units that can attract and empower more innovation leaders. As Bock argues in Work Rules, "Micromanagement is mismanagement." Its collection of innovation organizations provides the freedom to innovate without near-term financial constraints. The new structure is designed to enable Google to retain such established innovation leaders as Google's new CEO Sundar Pichai, Calico's Levinson, Google X's Astro Teller, Sidewalk Labs' Dan Doctoroff, and venture capital leader Bill Maris.
These innovation leaders possess very different characteristics than most traditional leaders of large enterprises:
- They are "We" leaders, not "I" leaders.
- They align their teams around an inspiring mission and set of values.
- They have high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) combined with high IQs.
- They possess passion, compassion and courage.
- They are skilled at drawing out the best talents of innovators.
- They inspire, empower, support and protect their innovators and mavericks.
- They focus on bold long-term visions and aren't deflected by short-term pressures.
- They are superb collaborators with other teams and other leaders.
Google's model for nurturing innovation leaders may well become the gold standard for other organizations eager to create innovation breakthroughs, without the constant pressure of shareholders for immediate results.
At the very least, in itself it is a breakthrough.
Bill George’s new book, Discover Your True North, unmasks authentic leadership.
When I received an advance copy of Bill George’s latest book, Discover Your True North, I was interested to read it, since I know Bill George from attending many of the same business and social events over the years. Most recently, George and I were co-keynote speakers on the topic of best practices in corporate governance and ethics. But, to be perfectly candid, the idea of writing a book review about “another” business book written by a former CEO didn’t exactly flip my pancakes.
That was, however, until I opened to the preface, which starts: “Warren Bennis was one of the great pioneers in the field of leadership.” I had the great fortune to have studied under Professor Bennis when I attended the Graduate School of Business at the University of Minnesota (now the Carlson School of Business). Due to Bennis’ profound wisdom, kindness and generosity of spirit, I became one of his ardent disciples, and I am grateful to have known and learned from him. George writes about his admiration for Bennis as well, and about how he influenced George’s decision to become a writer and teacher.
And how great it is that we all can learn from George’s writing. His latest book follows up on many of the 125 CEOs he interviewed for past books and contains 47 new interviews. Using stories from these leaders to illustrate major leadership principles, George demonstrates that there are many ways to lead, but the best way is by honoring your own “true north.” He defines this as leading others by mastering and sharing our special, authentic and unique qualities.
I respect George’s advice because he has not been sitting on the leadership bench studying business, but served as the CEO of Medtronic from 1991 to 2001 (a period during which the company’s market capitalization grew at an average annual rate of 35 percent). And his book includes stories from many local business leaders of their leadership challenges and lessons. As he explained in a recent Star Tribune column, the business leaders of the Twin Cities are ethical, mission-driven, values-centered, committed to building both their companies and our community, and are consistently ranked as the finest group in the country. In short, Discover Your True North is a book written by an accomplished leader about how accomplished leaders got there and how you can become one.
George’s story is one that I relate to on a very personal level, as I also experienced a crucible before finding my true north. By the time I was in my early 40s, I was a president at First Bank (now US Bank) with responsibility for enterprise-wide consumer, business and electronic banking and financial services, with 7,800 employees in 156 regional locations. The board and executives above me recognized and rewarded my leadership potential, and most people from the outside thought I was on top of the world. I climbed the corporate ladder and was enjoying exceptional compensation and perks such as corporate suites at professional sporting events and flying around in our private jets.
But inside, I was miserable. Despite my success, I wasn’t fulfilled. Just as George explains his crucible, I lost my way while trying to fit in instead of standing out by being myself. I felt like I was going to a masquerade ball every day. After some significant soul-searching, I realized that my true north wasn’t in corporate life. Rather, my authentic calling was to serve underdog organizations in distress and to serve at-risk kids who live in poverty or are physically or cognitively disabled.
George explains a three-step process. The first is to review your past, and I’ve been doing that lately too. It’s only recently that I have learned to appreciate, instead of resent, how growing up in poverty shaped me into who I am today. It’s probably why I decided on a career to fight off business bullies and help distressed underdogs, and why I work to inspire at-risk kids to have a vision for a better life and a commitment to reach it through education.
Step two describes the core building blocks for becoming an authentic leader (being self-aware, sticking to one’s values, staying with a career sweet spot, utilizing a support team and living a balanced life). Once again, these are lessons I’ve learned myself, and that also remind me of Professor Bennis, who wrote, “More leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together” (On Becoming a Leader, revised edition).
Finally, George teaches how to lead from a position of “we” instead of “me.” I’ve learned that as I progressed along the leadership path, I had to develop new skills, including how to motivate others to get work done to accomplish goals and objectives, and that I would be measured and rewarded on that ability versus what I accomplished on my own.
So if you are feeling like you are a masqueraded leader because you’re trying to find your true north, read this book. George aims at the leadership issues that plague our country today and has hit that target with a remarkable accuracy.
Mark W. Sheffert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is founder, chairman and CEO of Manchester Companies, Inc., a Minneapolis-based board and management advisory firm specializing in business recovery, transfomation, performance improvement, board governance, and litigation support.
This article was originally published 10/30/15 on Twin Cities Business.
From SmartBlogs, posted 10/29/2015
This post is excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from “Discover Your True North, Expanded and Updated Edition” (August 2015) by Bill George. Copyright (c) 2015 by Bill George. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Bill George is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic.
When I graduated from college, I had the naive notion that the journey to leadership was a straight line to the top. I learned the hard way that leadership is not a singular destination but a marathon journey that progresses through many stages until you reach your peak. I was not alone. Of all the senior leaders we interviewed, none wound up where they thought they would.
Former Vanguard CEO Jack Brennan believes that the worst thing people can do is to manage their careers with a career map: “The dissatisfied people I have known and those who experienced ethical or legal failures all had a clear career plan.” Brennan recommended being flexible and venturesome in stepping up to unexpected opportunities. “If you’re only interested in advancing your career, you’ll wind up dissatisfied,” he said.
The idea of a career ladder places tremendous pressure on leaders to keep climbing ever higher. Instead, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook, favors the idea of a career “jungle gym” where you can move up, down, or across. Realistically, your development as a leader is a journey filled with many ups and downs as you progress to your peak leadership and continue leading through the final stage.
The leader’s journey follows the new span of life, which often runs into the nineties. Individuals move through three periods of leadership with different types of leadership opportunities unfolding in each. There will be differences in the pace at which leaders navigate the timeline, but there are many commonalities among their experiences.
Phase I: Preparing for Leadership
Phase I is preparing for leadership, when character forms and people act as individual contributors or lead teams for the first time. Today, very few leaders make career commitments in their twenties. Increasingly, they use the time following college to gain valuable work experience, oftentimes changing jobs every 18 to 24 months to diversify their experience. Many young leaders are interested in going to graduate school in business, law, or government. Even some who complete their master’s degrees prefer individual contributor roles in consulting or finance before committing to a specific company or industry.
There is a natural amount of self-absorption in this phase. Measures of success in your teens and twenties are based primarily on what you accomplish as an individual. Your performance determines what schools you are admitted to and how well you do in your work. Here’s how Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s Randy Komisar described it:
We begin life on a linear path where success is based on clear targets. Life gets complicated when the targets aren’t clear, and you have to set your own. By rubbing up against the world, you get to know yourself. Either do that, or you’re going to spend your life serving the interests and expectations of others.
He acknowledged that the start of the journey is particularly hard for young people “They look at me and say, ‘Hey, man. All I want to do is to get a good job, buy a house, get married, and have kids.’” Komisar said he wished life were so simple. Instead, he tells them:
Let me just plant this seed. Keep it alive and come back to it in 10 years, but don’t flush it. Ask yourself the question “What do you want out of your life?” I want to empower you for that time when it’s relevant to you.
Wendy Kopp: Stepping Up at 21
As a student at Princeton, Wendy Kopp developed a passion to transform K–12 education. Growing up in a middle-class family in an affluent Dallas suburb, she lived in a community that was “extraordinarily isolated from reality and the disparities in educational opportunity.” Kopp was influenced by her freshman roommate at Princeton, who was from inner-city New York. Kopp described her roommate as brilliant but unable to keep up with her studies because her high school had not prepared her for the rigors of Princeton. Ultimately, her roommate dropped out of school.
As a senior, Kopp burned with desire to transform education but didn’t know how to get there. Not wanting to pursue the typical corporate-training track, she went into “a deep funk.” As she explored teaching, she realized many others also believed that depriving kids of an excellent education was a national tragedy.
So she organized a conference of students and business leaders to examine ways to improve K–12 education. During the conference, an idea came to her: “Why doesn’t this country have a national teacher corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in public schools?” Her rhetorical question inspired her to found Teach For America (TFA), the most successful secondary educational program of the past 25 years.
Kopp’s journey wasn’t easy. Lacking management experience and permanent funding, Teach For America was constantly short of cash, lurching from one crisis to the next. Time and again, Kopp threw herself into fundraising as she restructured budgets and financing to cover deficits. After working 100 hours a week for five years to build TFA to 500 new teachers per year, Kopp felt overwhelmed by the financial pressures of raising money to keep the organization going.
When many initial funders decided not to continue funding the organization, losses mounted to a cumulative deficit of $2.5 million. A blistering critique of TFA in an influential educators’ journal said, “TFA is bad policy and bad education. It is bad for the recruits. It is bad for the schools. It is bad for the children.” Reflecting on the article, Kopp recalled, “It felt like a punch in the chest. I read it more as a personal attack than an academic analysis of our efforts.” When some of her original team left TFA, Kopp thought about shutting it down. “Yet my passion for our cause and fear that we might let the children down kept me going,” she said.
Kopp’s experience at such a young age is the essence of authentic leadership: Find something you are passionate about, and inspire others to join the cause. TFA’s crisis accelerated her development as a leader. Twenty years after founding TFA, Kopp’s tireless efforts and passionate leadership have paid off. Today the program has 11,000 corps members who are teaching more than 750,000 students.
Ian Chan: Creating a Scientific Revolution
Ian Chan is another young leader who discovered his passion to lead at an early age. As his college graduation approached, he knew he wanted “an opportunity that would get me excited to jump out of bed every day and go to work.” After uninspiring experiences in investment banking and private equity, he and his younger brother focused on the human genome revolution.
The Chan brothers founded U.S. Genomics to revolutionize medicine by delivering personalized genomics on a broad scale. They attracted noted advisers, such as scientist Craig Venter, who originally mapped the human genome, and Bob Langer, a renowned technologist. They began with a $100,000 credit card loan, and subsequently raised $52 million from venture capitalists, several of whom joined the board as the Chan brothers gave up more than half their ownership.
Over the next five years the company’s work attracted attention in the scientific community and venture capital world as U.S. Genomics became a pioneer in its field. When the founders presented the company’s exceptional performance in December 2001, the board gave them a standing ovation. Yet, as the full potential of U.S. Genomics became apparent to the venture capitalists, they decided they needed a more experienced executive to lead it. Four months later, Chan was shocked when his board told him he was being replaced as CEO. “To this day, I have no idea why this happened when things were going so well,” he said.
I put my heart and soul into it for many years, and then boom, it’s all gone. It was gut-wrenching to have something taken away that I created and believed in deeply. I still had some shares, but I wasn’t part of the enterprise anymore with its mission I believe in. I wanted to continue fighting, but I felt helpless. In hindsight, it was a rich experience I can build on for the next journey. I had been working crazy hours and was very tired. I didn’t have a personal life and needed more balance. To regroup, I spent two years getting my MBA. That provided time for self-reflection and opportunities to interact with some of the world’s top business leaders.
I realized I was still fortunate to have my health, family, and the privilege of living in a free country. These should never be taken for granted. My heart is still in entrepreneurship and biotechnology because there are so many untreatable diseases that provide opportunities to make broad impact.
Chan was a victim of his own success. Yet for all the heartache and pain, he had an invaluable experience that has been formative on his leadership journey. He and his brother, Eugene, rejoined forces in 2007 to found Abpro, focusing on producing proteins used in life sciences. They raised $1.5 million in seed capital but have retained more than 50 percent ownership to avoid repeating the U.S. Genomics experience. Chan said he learned from these experiences “the importance of pursuing your passion to make scientific breakthroughs” but also “not to give up control to outsiders.”
Unfortunately, fear of failure keeps many young leaders from jumping into opportunities like Kopp and Chan did.
Ann Fudge offered a priceless point of view, noting, “Struggle and tough experiences ultimately fashion you.”
Don’t worry about the challenges. Embrace them. Go through them even if they hurt. Tell yourself, there is something to be learned from this experience. You may not fully understand it now, but you will later. It’s all part of life, and life is a process of learning. Every challenging experience develops your core of inner strength, which gets you through those storms. Nothing worth doing in life is going to be easy.
From Psychology Today, posted 10/30/2015
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." – African Proverb
Who can you turn to when life gets tough? Who do you have… when you’re alone?
Over the past 20 years, Americans have faced a crisis of community. As Robert Putnam documented in his famous book “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”, we’re spending less and less time with each other. As technology connects us, it changes the types of relationships we have. We have more “friends” than ever, but we lack the deep bonding we yearn for.
The problem isn’t just anecdotal. In 2014, the National Science Foundation reported in its General Social Survey that an unprecedented number of Americans are lonely. Almost one fourth of respondents reported having “no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs.”
One solution is developing a support group – a group of people that you meet with regularly to reflect, share, and support each other. We know these groups are important, but it’s difficult to change how we behave. As CEO Tad Piper explained in Discover Your True North, “Many of us find excuses—I’m too busy . . . The payoff isn’t clear . . . I’ll do it next year—to avoid building the types of relationships these groups engender.”
If you look at the psychological research, however, the pay-off is clear. Developing a strong support network makes you happier, more productive, and better prepared to face the world.
Emotionally, having a strong support network changes how you feel. As the Mayo Clinic recently reported, deep personal connections help decrease stress, anxiety, and the risk of depression. Having close relationships changes your fundamental biology. In 2006, the Journal of Behavioral medicine reported that social support is linked to a lower rate of mortality and an improvement in the immune system.
Having a consistent group also helps you reflect on yourself. In preparing for the unexpected in life, leadership expert Warren Bennis says, “Have some group that will tell you the truth and to whom you can tell the truth… All you can do is make sure there’s some way of understanding reality beyond what you know yourself.” A strong support group allows you see yourself more clearly. The members provide feedback, perspective, and (at times) the difficult truth you need to hear.
Finally, your support group helps you develop a feeling of belonging. As Brene Brown at the University of Houston put it, "A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.” Developing a consistent group of peers you can be vulnerable with is essential in this process.
At various times your support group - something I call a True North Group - will function as a nurturer, a grounding rod, a truth teller, and a mirror. At other times the group functions as a challenger or an inspirer. When people are wracked with self-doubts, it helps build their courage and ability to cope.”
We do not succeed on their own. Our collective loneliness has been well documented, but the remedies have not. Authentic leaders build close relationships with people who will counsel them in times of uncertainty, be there in times of difficulty, and celebrate with them in times of success.
How strong is your support group? Who do you have… when you’re alone?
This was originally published on Amazon.com
By Thomas M. Loarie
“Walgreens is Waiting for Answers About Theranos”
“Attention Shareholders: Beware of the Board”
“Credit Suisse Settles ‘Dark Pool’ Case”
“Stanford Business School Steps Down After Affair with Wife of Direct Report”
“Bribery Case Hits UN”
“Volkswagen Chief Martin Winterkorn Resigns Amid Emissions Scandal”
“VC Arrested for Insider Trading Now Accused of Defrauding His Firm”
These recent headlines in the Wall Street Journal highlight the on-going problem of leaders who have “gone south” and have taken their organizations with them. Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer would use these as examples of how “the leadership industry has failed.” Prescriptions for leaders to be more truthful are at odds with what goes on in the real world. “The ability to lie can be very useful for getting ahead,” says Pfeffer. “Manipulation is a foundation for social power…in fact; there is a reciprocal relationship between power and lying.”
That brings us to Bill George’s latest book, “Discover Your True North: Expanded and Updated.” In it, George brings his wisdom, observations, examples, and practices to bear on helping leaders be something more than what Pfeffer proposes. He encourages us to build on our natural leadership gifts and to stay on our “True North” track to inspire and empower others to excellence. According to George, our “True North” is the internal compass which, based on deeply held beliefs, values, and principles, “represents who we are at our deepest level.” Knowing our internal compass helps when pressures and seductions detour us from achieving our purpose in life. It is our lifesaver… alerting us to get back on track when the life being lived is not aligned with who we are at the deepest level.
George’s “True North” needs some reconciling to Pfeffer’s belief about the reality of leadership. Pfeffer talks about power for the sake of power while George talks about power that flows from character. This disconnect may be attributed to the lack of good role models for those seeking to be leaders. I have observed over the years that leadership training if not reinforced by good role models does not lead to “True North” leadership. It is hard work to develop the type of leader George talks about. It is “The Road Less Traveled” due to the required investment of time by both the student and the role model.
For this reason, I recommend “Discovering Your True North” but with the caveat that it is reinforced by a role model. This may be satisfied with George’s concept of a “support team” that he details in the book. I have worked with Bill George and can vouch that he is the real thing. I am sure that he provides the modeling needed to those he touches in the classroom and for those he works with in his consultancy.
In brief about this updated edition – George revisits his NYC Times best-seller and now business classic that was released in 2007. He integrates his personal insights gained as CEO of Medtronic and as a professor and Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School with new first-person interviews of 48 “authentic global leaders.” These leaders include many who have garnered the positive attention of the press and have inspired and empowered millions to excellence –Indra Nooyi, Jack Ma, Alan Mulally, John Mackey, Sheryl Sandberg, Michael Bloomberg, and many others. He also includes updates on the original 125 participants featured in his first book and includes a chapter on finding your “GQ,” your global quotient.
George also includes case studies of those who were seduced and made bad choices, which led to painful detours in their lives – Rajat Gupta (insider trading), Lance Armstrong (fraud and demonization of those who tried to get the truth known), and Michael Baker (fraud). It is early but we all may have something to learn from what appears to be a scandal of major proportions at Theranos. Did Elizabeth Holmes take time to find her “True North”? Did she take a detour? Will Theranos survive? For her, this book may be too late.
Those who read the first book will find this to be just as inspiring. For those who missed the first book, they will find this to be a treasure and regret they missed the 2007 edition.
Bill George speaks at Georgia Tech IMPACT Speaker Series on Discover Your True North.
Link to Video
In the new edition of Discover Your Truth North, bestselling author Bill George profiles nearly 50 new leaders, including Warren Buffett, Indra Nooyi, Arianna Huffington, Paul Polman, Mike Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and others.
In the following excerpt from Discover Your True North, George explains how Jack Ma became China’s first global leader and how other leaders can develop global intelligence, or “GQ.”
Alibaba’s Jack Ma has emerged as China’s first truly global leader, the face of the new China: a free-enterprise entrepreneur working within the confines of a Communist government to build a more equitable society.
Ma was on fire as we talked over lunch the day that Alibaba launched the largest initial public offering (IPO) in history. Its stock price makes Alibaba the eighteenth-largest global company by market capitalization. Ma’s goal isn’t making money. Because of Alibaba’s success, he is already China’s wealthiest citizen, with a $20 billion net worth. Yet when he asked his wife whether it was more important to be wealthy or have respect, they agreed upon respect.
In person, Ma is warm, affable, open, and authentic. For all his success, he is extremely humble, preferring to talk about building a great company that helps customers, creates jobs, and serves society. “I’m just a purist. I don’t spend 15 minutes thinking about making money,” he said. “What is important in my life is influencing many people as well as China’s development. When I am by myself, I am relaxed and happy.” He added, “They call me ‘Crazy Jack.’ I hope to stay crazy for the next 30 years.”
China’s large and growing economy has made it an increasing economic force the past two decades, but it has not produced global companies. Instead, Chinese businesses have focused domestically and engaged in low-cost production for international companies. Ma has a very different approach. He sees the Internet as a worldwide phenomenon that knows no borders. Today, the Alibaba companies serve 600 million customers in 240 countries. Ma intends to expand aggressively in the American, European, and emerging markets by linking 1 million small businesses with 2 billion Asian consumers. He also has plans to disrupt China’s commercial banking and insurance sectors.
“I want to create one million jobs, change China’s social and economic environment, and make it the largest Internet market in the world.” –Jack Ma
In the times I have been with him, Ma relishes telling his life story. Raised in humble origins in Hangzhou in the 1980s, he overcame one obstacle after another. He was rejected at virtually every school he applied to, even grade schools, because he didn’t test well in math.
Yet he persevered. From ages 12 to 20, he rode his bicycle 40 minutes to a hotel where he could practice his English. “China was opening up, and a lot of foreign tourists went there,” he said. “I showed them around as a free guide. Those eight years changed me deeply, as I became more globalized than most Chinese. What foreign visitors told us was different from what I learned from my teachers and books.”
As a young man, Ma applied for jobs at 30 companies and was rejected at every one. He seemed most stung by his experience at Kentucky Fried Chicken where 24 people applied and 23 got jobs. Ma was the only applicant rejected. Consequently, he became an English teacher at Hangzhou Electronics Technology College. When he visited America for the first time in 1999, he was stunned by the entrepreneurial culture he saw in California. “I got my dream from America,” he said. “In the evenings in Silicon Valley, the roads were full of cars, and all the buildings had lights on. That’s the vision of what I wanted to create [at home in China].”
Returning to Hangzhou, he and Joe Tsai (now executive vice chair) founded Alibaba in Ma’s modest apartment. “We chose the name,” he explained, “because people everywhere associate it with ‘Open, Sesame,’ the command Ali Baba used to open doors to hidden treasures in One Thousand and One Nights.” Ma focused on applying his team’s ideas to help businesses and consumers find their own hidden treasures. He was unsuccessful in raising even $2 million from American venture capitalists, but, once again, he persevered. Eventually, he raised $5 million through Goldman Sachs, and later, Masayoshi Son of Japan’s SoftBank invested $20 million.
Ma is passionate about building the Alibaba ecosystem in order to help people, a philosophy that he is trying to embed into the DNA of the company. At the company’s founding, he issued generous stock option packages to early employees because he wanted to enrich their lives. The day of the IPO, he insisted Alibaba’s six values–Customer First, Teamwork, Embrace Change, Integrity, Passion, Commitment–be placed on the pillars of the New York Stock Exchange.
Ma’s commitment to a cause larger than himself has propelled him forward.
My vision is to build an e-commerce ecosystem that allows consumers and businesses to do all aspects of business online. I want to create one million jobs, change China’s social and economic environment, and make it the largest Internet market in the world.
American tech leaders, such as Larry Page of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, have emphasized technology and product above everything. Not Ma. “I’m not a tech guy,” he said. “I’m looking at technology with the eyes of my customers—normal people’s eyes.”
With his light-hearted nature, Ma participates in annual talent shows where he sings pop songs. He also practices Tai Chi and martial arts, which he calls “the most down-to-earth way of explaining Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. These practices cherish brotherhood, morality, courage, emotion, and conscience.”
Ma worries that China lost an entire generation when Mao Zedong phased out Confucianism and other forms of spirituality. His bold vision is to restore that sense of values and purpose to the next generation. “It’s not policies we need, but genuine people,” he said. Ma is highly ethical in his business practices. He noted, “I would rather shut down my company than pay a bribe.”
For all his confidence, Ma is not without worries. He believes his biggest challenges are to create genuine value for his customers, to work cooperatively with the government, and to build his team of global leaders. He would like to use his wealth to found a university for entrepreneurs that can produce the next generation of Chinese entrepreneurs. “Our challenge,” Ma said, “is to help more people to make money in a sustainable manner. That is not only good for them but also good for society.”
“Ma embodies the global intelligence, or GQ, that is needed for today’s global leaders.” –Bill George
Developing Global Intelligence (GQ)
Ma embodies the global intelligence, or GQ, that is needed for today’s global leaders. Succeeding in the new global context will require companies to cultivate a cadre of executives—as many as 500 per company—who have the capabilities of global leaders. Developing these new leaders requires unique leadership experiences, ideally in emerging markets, combined with leadership development programs that differ materially from today’s corporate training programs. Traditionally, the latter have focused on managerial skills and building one’s functional knowledge. Yet the shortcomings of leaders—and their subsequent failures—usually result from the lack of leadership capabilities that we call global intelligence, or GQ.
GQ consists of seven elements, all of which are essential for global leaders:
Several of these characteristics—such as awareness—seem very similar to parts of the process we’ve examined for discovering your True North. That’s by design. Global interactions heighten the stress that leaders face. The more global the context, the more demanding leadership becomes. When leaders are placed in emerging market situations, the complexity increases exponentially because the differences in language, culture, customer preferences, negotiating tactics, business practices, laws, and ethical standards are so great. The same applies to the activities of daily living in these countries. That’s why many otherwise solid leaders struggle with global assignments and working in emerging markets.
Let’s examine each of these characteristics of global leaders.
Being a global leader requires the ability to understand today’s volatile world and foresee changes coming in the years ahead. Global leaders must be able to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing global context by shifting resources to opportunity areas and developing contingency plans to cope with adverse geopolitical situations.
This is particularly true in emerging markets, where frequent changes in government, currency movements, financial crises, ethnic conflicts, wars, and terrorism may literally change the business climate overnight. In recent years, we have seen this happen in Greece, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, and India, to mention just a few. Global leaders must be prepared to alter their tactics quickly to adjust to changes.
Leaders need to understand the world around them, as well as themselves—their strengths, vulnerabilities, and biases—to perceive how they will react to the significant cultural differences they encounter. When people from developed countries live in emerging markets, they become much more aware of themselves and their insecurities as they begin to understand the complexities of other languages, being in the minority, and differences in cultures and norms.
“One of the greatest challenges global leaders face is incorporating local and global issues into an integrated corporate strategy.” –Bill George
Global leaders must have deep curiosity about the cultures they encounter. This includes a personal passion for diverse experiences and an insatiable desire to learn from other cultures. They also must be humble to recognize that different cultural norms and ways of doing things guiding other cultures may often be superior to their own. When you visit an emerging market, such as China or India, do you stay in a deluxe hotel and eat in Western restaurants, or do you get out into the country, meet the people, go to local markets and shops, and visit people’s homes to see how they live? That marks the difference between domestic leaders traveling overseas and global leaders who are open to experiencing all the world has to offer.
Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. This requires humility and the capability to engage people from different cultures personally, rather than standing back and judging them. Empathy builds rapport and bonding and creates lasting relationships. Only with empathy are leaders able to draw the highest level of engagement from colleagues from different cultures and empower them to achieve exceptional performance.
The challenge for global leaders is to align all employees around the company’s mission and its values, a commitment that transcends national and cultural differences. Achieving alignment is far more difficult in a global context because the business practices and ethics in emerging markets often differ so dramatically from those of developed countries. Thus, global leaders are asking local employees to put the company’s mission and values ahead of the business practices and values in countries where they have grown up and worked. It is no longer sufficient just to comply with the laws and ethics without regard for negative consequences their business practices may have on the countries in which they operate. However, this does not mean giving up their culture and the norms by which they live, because norms can vary widely from country to country.
In a global context, collaboration is the ability to create horizontal networks that cut across geographic lines, bring people together around common goals, and create a modus operandi that transcends geographic norms. In authentic global collaborations, participants put company and project goals first and work together in partnerships to achieve them. The most successful geographic collaborations are led by global leaders who know the strengths and weaknesses of each regional group and who make assignments within the team to take advantage of their relative strengths.
One of the greatest challenges global leaders face is incorporating local and global issues into an integrated corporate strategy. Such a strategy enables them to optimize their position in a wide array of local markets efficiently to create sustainable competitive advantage. Doing so requires deep understanding of local markets and the global vision to see how their companies can serve their customers’ needs in a superior manner by leveraging their corporate strengths. That’s the only way they can outcompete local companies, which often have a cost advantage because they operate in the region.
As Unilever’s COO Harish Manwani explained, “We have a globally distributed organizational model that balances local relevance with obal leverage.”
We don’t believe in “Think local; act global.” Instead, we believe in “Act local; think global.” The company starts by acting locally, creating relevance through an understanding of consumer needs and desires and their local cultures. Then we leverage Unilever’s vast global resources to deliver superior products to meet those needs. This is how we gain competitive advantage over local producers. We are committed to bringing our expertise to local markets.
Today’s authentic global leaders recognize that in the future, businesses can only thrive by serving all the people of the world equitably while also contributing to their societies.
This article was originally published 10/22/15 on Knowledge@Wharton.
From The Huffington Post, Posted on October 21, 2015
Ask yourself whether you are leading with purpose or just trying to get ahead?
Do you actually believe in something larger than your compensation, your career trajectory or your next success?
I often tell young leaders, if their work has no meaning or satisfaction, they are better off quitting and sitting on the beach until they decide what they want to do.
Many people’s work is completely disconnected from their values and their purpose. This lack of purpose isn’t something to deal with by working with a nonprofit in your spare time. If you don’t take action to address this disconnect, it can become like an insidious cancer that eats at your soul. Long-run, a lack of purpose can lead to burnout, poor decision-making, and even moral derailment.
Understanding Your Purpose
Your purpose is the genuine deeper meaning in your work. It reflects why you do what you do.
Understanding your purpose is essential to becoming a better leader. People who lead with a sense of purpose that is aligned with their company’s purpose make better long-term decisions and are more authentic.
But this is not as easy as it sounds. Discerning your purpose takes a combination of introspection and real-world experiences before you can determine where you want to devote your energies.
The first step to knowing your purpose is to understand your life story. We all face times of crisis, pain or rejection in our lives. Reflecting on the life you've lived helps you to discover your True North – the beliefs, values and principles most important to you.
Before you take on a leadership role, ask yourself: “What motivates me to lead this organization?” If the honest answers are simply power, prestige and money, you are at risk of being trapped by external gratification as your source of fulfillment.
This never works. Why? Simply, you can never have enough money, fame or recognition. When you give someone else the power to decide if you’re successful (whether it’s the Forbes 400 list or an invitation to Davos), you lose. If you allow some external force to define your success, you have essentially abdicated your soul.
There is a deep voice inside you that yearns to bring your unique gifts to this world. If you neglect that voice, you create deep misalignments that eventually will surface.
Purpose at Work
Ken Frazier traveled a unique road en route to becoming CEO of Merck, the leading pharmaceutical research company. Born before the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, Frazier’s grandfather was a slave in South Carolina. He sent his son, Frazier’s father, to live in Philadelphia. With no formal education, Frazier’s father became a janitor, yet taught himself to read, reading two newspapers a day. In spite of his limited opportunities, he had a profound influence on Frazier’s life.
After his mother died when he was 12, Frazier and his sisters had to fend for themselves after school, avoiding the gangs that dominated the streets outside his house. “I learned very early from my father that one has to be one’s own person and not go along with the crowd,” Frazier says. His father asked him, “Kenny, how are you going to carry on your grandfather’s narrative of being free and your own person? You better do what you know is right, and not be fixated on what other people think of you.”
While studying at on Penn State scholarship, Frazier decided he wanted “to become a great lawyer like Thurgood Marshall, affecting social change.” At Harvard Law School, he was acutely aware he wasn’t from the same social class as his classmates. He wryly notes, “Lloyd Blankfein [CEO of Goldman Sachs] and I were the only students who ‘were not of the manor born.’”
Shortly after he joined Merck, Frazier took on the extremely difficult task of defending Merck from over 40,000 lawsuits filed after the pain drug Vioxx was withdrawn from the market due to alleged cardiovascular problems. Frazier did so successfully, catapulting him into the CEO’s chair where he faced a greater challenge: short-term shareholders pressured him to cut back Merck’s research as several of its competitors were doing. Frazier stayed the course, committing to spend a minimum of $8 billion per year on research in order to pursue cures for devastating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Reflecting on his sense of purpose, Frazier explains, “Merck’s purpose is aligned with my personal sense of who I want to be and what I hope to contribute to the world. At Merck, you have the opportunity to make tangible contributions to humanity. There’s a yearning in all of us to leave something meaningful behind, because we know we have a short time on earth. Merck gives me the chance to leave something to people 20, 50 or even 100 years from now because we did the right things today.”
Asked what his father would say about his remarkable success, Frazier says modestly, “He’d say, ‘The boy did what he was supposed to do.’”
Turning Purpose Into Action
Your leadership purpose is not meaningful until it is applied to solving problems you encounter in the real world. When you align your personal purpose with an organization’s mission, you unlock the full potential of people in the organization.
That’s what I tried to do at Medtronic where we connected employees’ True North with the company mission of “restoring health, alleviating pain and extending life.” My successors, especially current CEO Omar Ishrak, have pursued this mission with vigor, contributing to the 100 times increase in the company’s market value over the past 26 years. More importantly, the number of people each year restored to full health has grown from 300,000 to 15 million.
As long as you focus on your True North, understand your purpose and use it to make a difference in the world, you can leave a legacy that inspires those who follow.