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HBS: The Truth About Authentic Leaders

The debate over which form of leadership works best seems settled, in my view. Most leading companies globally are focusing on developing "authentic leaders" within their ranks. Executive courses at Harvard Business School in authentic leadership development are oversubscribed and expanding every year. As the Harvard Business Review declared in January 2015, “Authenticity has emerged as the gold standard for leadership.”

In 2003, our book Authentic Leadership proposed a new kind of leader, whose character was the ingredient that mattered most—more than characteristics or style. We also challenged older models of leadership, including the “great man theory” and competency-based leadership models. Previous generations of business people spent more time trying to “market” themselves as leaders, rather than undertaking the transformative work that leadership development requires.

Critiques of authenticity

But recently three leading scholars at Insead, Stanford, and Wharton challenged the concept of authentic leadership. Like all movements—Harvard University Professor Michael Porter’s famous five forces of strategy comes to mind—growing acceptance of an idea often attracts contrarian critiques, which ultimately are healthy in clarifying our understanding.

In Leadership BS, Stanford’s Jeff Pfeffer says, “the last thing a leader needs to be at crucial moments is authentic.” Insead’s Herminia Ibarra adds, “We have to find a way to fake it till we become it.” The most recent salvo comes from Wharton’s Adam Grant, who wrote in the June 5 New York Times, “’Be yourself’ is actually terrible advice… Nobody wants to see your true self.”

"AUTHENTIC LEADERS MONITOR THEIR WORDS AND BEHAVIORS CAREFULLY TO BE ATTUNED TO THEIR AUDIENCES AND TO ENROLL THEIR COLLEAGUES AND TEAMMATES"

While these writings have garnered plenty of press attention, their critiques of authentic leaders reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of authenticity. Webster defines authenticity as “real or genuine; not copied or false; true and accurate.” It comes from the Greek word for author, which led author Warren Bennis to say, “You are the author of your life.”

Ibarra postulates two types of authentic leaders: “low self-monitors” and “high self-monitors.” Low self-monitors tend to say whatever comes to mind, whereas high self-monitors watch carefully what they say for its impact on others. This distinction creates a false dichotomy because low self-monitoring is the opposite of being authentic, and is a sign of immaturity and insensitivity to the feelings of others. Leaders who do this, such as telling a colleague, “I’d like to go to bed with you,” as Grant proposes, are anything but authentic.

Authentic leaders monitor their words and behaviors carefully to be attuned to their audiences and to enroll their colleagues and teammates. They do so because they are sensitive to the impact their words and actions have on others, not because they are “messaging” the right talking points.

Ibarra’s second critique of authentic leaders is that they are often locked into a rigid sense of themselves, much like their immature teenage selves. This is the antithesis of authentic leaders, who are constantly developing themselves to increase self-awareness and improve relationships with others. They don’t hide behind their flaws; instead, they seek to understand them. This lifelong developmental process is similar to what musicians and athletes go through in improving their capabilities.

How leaders develop their authenticity

Rather than trying to redefine what it means to be authentic, research and leadership development programs should focus on how leaders develop their authenticity. Being authentic as a leader is hard work and takes years of experience in leadership roles. No one can be authentic without fail; everyone behaves inauthentically at times, saying and doing things they will come to regret. The key is to have the self-awareness to recognize these times and listen to close colleagues who point them out.

The essence of authentic leadership is emotional intelligence, or EQ, as articulated by Daniel Goleman. People with high IQs and low EQs can hardly be called authentic leaders. In contrast to IQ, which basically does not change in one’s adult lifetime, EQ can be developed. The first and most important step on this journey is gaining self-awareness.

In preparing to write Discover Your True North, my research team and I conducted in-depth interviews with 172 authentic leaders. This research highlighted the vital role of self-awareness in leadership development. Here are some recommended steps people undertake to develop a deeper understanding of themselves in order to become authentic leaders:

  • Explore their life stories and their crucibles in order to understand who they are. As my HBS colleague Lakshmi Ramarajan says, the process of learning, growing, and developing an integrated self is a process of construction and meaning–making. As leaders explore their life stories and crucibles, and process their experiences, they develop deeper understanding of themselves and feel increasingly comfortable being authentic. This is a lifelong journey in which we are always discovering the next layer, much like peeling an onion. As leaders discover their truth, their True North, they gain confidence and resilience to face difficult situations.
  • Engage in reflection and introspective practices by taking time every day to step back from the 24/7 world, turn off all electronics, and reflect on what is most important to them. This can be done through introspective practices that are growing rapidly in popularity, such as meditation, mindfulness, prayer, long walks to clear one’s mind, or simply sitting quietly and reflecting. The key here is set aside preoccupation with task lists, iPhones, and the latest news in order to reflect privately. In this way the urgent does not take precedence over the important in one’s life, and leaders examine how they are living their lives and engaging with the world around them.
  • Seeking honest feedback from colleagues, friends, and subordinates about themselves and their leadership. One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to understand how other people see them, which is often quite different than how they want to be seen. To gain greater understanding of how they are coming across, authentic leaders obtain real-time feedback by listening to their “truth tellers,” who give them candid critiques about their leadership. Those that surround themselves with loyal sycophants, who only tell them how well they are doing rather than being brutally honest, risk going off track. Leaders also gather feedback through regular 360 degree reviews from peers and subordinates. The qualitative comments shared in 360 reviews can be of great benefit if leaders take them to heart, and genuinely try to change.
  • Understand their leadership purpose so they can align people around a common purpose. Purpose defines the unique gifts people bring to leadership challenges, through which they can align others with their purposes in order to create positive impact. This is far more important than focusing entirely on achieving success in metrics like money, fame and power, yet ultimately produces sustained success in those metrics as well.
  • Become skilled at tailoring their style to their audiences, imperatives of the situation, and readiness of their teammates to accept different approaches. There are times when leaders have to make difficult decisions that are sure to displease people, and they’ll need to give tough feedback. At other times they need to be inspiring, good coaches, and consensus builders. These flexible styles aren’t inauthentic if they come from a genuinely authentic place. In this sense leaders’ styles become the outward manifestation of their authenticity. As leaders gain experience and develop greater self-awareness, they become more skillful in adapting their style, without compromising their character.

What is needed now is a deeper understanding of how leaders become authentic, as they navigate the practical dilemmas and paradoxes they face. For example, Karissa Thacker’s recent book The Art of Authenticity takes authenticity to a deeper level by exploring topics like relational transparency and honest conversations, making peace with paradox, and seeking the truth.

My colleagues at HBS are working on the challenges of being authentic, such as how and when to be vulnerable, cognitive distortions, making meaning of who we are by integrating the constructed self with the true self—or True North—and going from purpose to impact. These are fertile areas for research by academics and in-company leadership experts.

Rather than creating false postulations about authentic leaders, we need to focus on how we can enable leaders to become more authentic, and give them the tools to do so. In this way authentic leaders will be able to create better lives for everyone they serve.

 

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.


 


 

This content was originally posted on Harvard Business School Working Knowledge on 7/6/16. 

Lessons Learned from USís Soccer Run in Copa America

The US Men’s Soccer Team had a great run to the semi-finals in the just-concluded Copa America Centenario. This was the 100th anniversary of this tourney usually reserved for South American teams only, and played in the US for the first time ever. While it was disappointing to get clobbered by Argentina, the overall team performance bodes well for the future.

Here are some things we learned about the US team in watching its six games:

  1. Kudos to Coach Juergen Klinsmann for setting an aggressive goal of reaching the semi-finals, and then making it. This was a bold objective in a very competitive tournament, featuring five of the world’s top nine teams: #1 Argentina, #3 Columbia, #5 Chile, #7 Brazil, and #9 Uruguay. The top three teams all advanced to the semis, as Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico fell by the wayside. In the quarters, the US bested #13 Ecuador, 2-1.
  2. For the first time as US coach, Klinsmann went with the same lineup, shaped in a more aggressive formation with emerging star Bobby Wood teamed up front with veteran Clint Dempsey. Dempsey led the way with three goals and two assists, disproving the doubters that said he is over the hill. The US played a more aggressive style of attacking its opponents all over the field, and it paid off. Klinsmann also found a solid back line led by young John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks, Wood and Yedlin are emerging young stars while Dempsey and Jermaine Jones proved they have enough life to anchor the team at the 2018 World Cup.
  3. However, the crushing defeat at the hands of Argentina and Lionel Messi showed just how far the US has to go to move into the top ranks. The Americans played that game without three starters, while revealed just how thin its bench strength is. Klinsmann needs to jettison journeymen like Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman and give his younger players like Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic – who has the potential to become the best player in US history – the opportunity to start rather than being subbed in with twenty minutes left.
  4. US Captain Michael Bradley was the major disappointment of the tourney. He was off pace with his passes the entire tournament, and a disaster against Argentina. As captain, it was Bradley’s job to lead the team and serve as quarterback in the back, yet he never showed any spark or leadership in the six games. Is Bradley over the hill at only 28, or does he need some serious coaching to get his game back on track? Instead of protecting his captain, Klinsmann needs to send him a message by benching him this fall in favor of a center midfield duo of Jones and Nagbe.
  5. In spite of losing 1-0 to Columbia in the third-place game, the Americans played this top-ranked team dead even. Only a brilliant save kept Dempsey’s curling direct kick out of the upper corner. Minutes later, Wood hit the post – a shot that could just as easily bounced in. The US was playing without two of its starting defenders due to injuries, as Columbia realized that subs Michael Orozco and Matt Besler couldn’t keep up the pace.

Looking ahead to World Cup 2018, Klinsmann should bring more of emerging young stars into the starting lineup and give them the experience of starting in qualifying games this fall, and drop the journeyman veterans who have proven that they can’t play at the top level. In spite of some disappointments, the US run in Copa was a big step forward and a sign of better days ahead.

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.

CNBC: Musk should stop dreaming so big: Bill George

Bill George, Former Medtronic CEO, and Bob Lutz, former GM vice chairman, discuss Tesla's bid for Solar City.

 

 

The original video was posted on CNBC on 6/26/16.

CNBC: Attracting Talent; Brexit & Banks

Bill George, Harvard Business School, discusses what it really takes to get and keep top talent in your organization. And what impact could Brexit have on banks.

   

This content was originally posted on CNBC.com on 6/20/16.

MARKETPLACE: Former CEO Weighs in on Shareholder Value

 

In our series "The Price of Profits," we're exploring corporations. What are they for? Whom are they for? And how that impacts the economy and you. Bill George is the senior fellow at the Harvard Business School and the former CEO of Medtronic. During his time as CEO, George took a long-term approach to growing Medtronic into a booming business. He spoke with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about shareholder value and the problems with short-term thinking. On the prevalence of shareholder-value thinking:

I think we've moved way too much towards what's called shareholder value and away from taking into account creating value for all your stakeholders. You've got to think about how you're creating values for your customers and in turn your employees. If you do that, well you'll have great value for your shareholders.

On the reporting requirements for companies:

I think we should take the Warren Buffet approach at looking at the underlying financial metrics and not trying to meet the stock markets expectations. I always told the stock market 'those are your expectations, my job is to build the company and achieve the goals we've announced to you.' But I do think we should report quarterly. I think it's a good discipline and because it gives investors a current look at what's happening.

On companies engaging in buybacks:

There's no evidence that in the long term buying back stock increases the stock price. If companies have excess cash, like say Apple does, I think it can be a very good thing to give some of that excess cash back to the shareholders. But if you're depleting your ability to invest in research and development, in capital expenditures, in expansion or acquisitions, I think it's a mistake.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview.  Bill George was chairman of the board of Medtronic from 1996 until 2002. The current chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Omar Ishrak, is on the board of trustees of American Public Media, the parent company of Marketplace.


  The original content for this piece was published on MARKETPLACE.com on 6/16/16. 

CNBC: Big Automakers vs. Disruptors

Discussing management issues in the auto sector with Suzy Welch, "Winning" co-author; Paul Argenti, Dartmouth professor; Jeff Sonnenfeld, Yale School of Management; and Bill George, Harvard Business School.


The original video was posted on 06/02/16 on CNBC.com.

University of St. Thomas: The Forum on Workplace Inclusion - Day 3 Keynote

The Forum was thrilled to have Bill George as our closing speaker on Day 3. Former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School, and author of Discover Your True North, Bill discusses finding your own True North – the internal compass that sets one on a path toward their fullest potential as a leader. Today’s global business community calls for leaders who will change the world for the better and inspire others around them to do the same.


This content was originally posted to stthomas.edu on 05/19/16.

Inquirer.net: Authentic Leadership

I asked a few leaders about their concept of leadership.  Typical answers are:  it’s a position, role, job, or responsibility.  One rare response I heard is that “leadership is acting.”  You fill in a leadership position and you’re expected to act in a certain acceptable manner. To be effective as a President, you’ve got to look and sound Presidential.

Duterte and Trump

Their detractors may not like it, but Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump are presumptive winners in their separate quests for leadership posts in opposite parts of the world.  Their similarity doesn’t end there.

Both leaders don’t exactly fit the conservative mold of traditional leaders.  They make quick, binding statements that they later reverse or “clarify.”  A little more finesse in their deportment or language can improve their image, but they didn’t seem to bother about them during the campaign. Their followers saw a brighter future with them at the helm.  WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get.

Authenticity

From the time of the Greek philosophers, to the time of Shakespeare, and until Bill George wrote his book in 2003, people have been amazed at how authenticity became a revered trait of great leaders.  In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius said, “To thy own self be true.”

You’ve heard of different types and styles of leadership – benevolent, fierce, autocratic, tough-minded, failure-tolerant, participative, or servant leadership.  Starting in early 2000s, authentic leadership became part of the vocabulary of modern management art and science.

From a practical sense, if you were the follower, you wouldn’t be comfortable with a leader who wears different masks.  During office hours, your boss is a non-nonsense stickler to the rules, flagellating employees to produce the last ounce of productivity.  At five o’clock, he transforms before your eyes to an inveterate gambler, womanizer and drunkard.  Before the clock strikes 12, he’s a henpecked husband bringing midnight snacks for the wife and kids.

Authentic leadership

The term authentic leadership has had many meanings and slants, but many gurusagree that authentic leaders:

Are self-aware and genuine.  They’re aware of their own strengths, limitations, and emotions.  They’re not afraid to show their real self to their constituencies. They act consistently, whether in public or alone with their close friends. They don’t hide their mistakes, nor are they afraid that they will look weak because of past mistakes.

Are mission-driven and results-oriented.  They’re able to subordinate their personal interests to the bigger goals the organization.  They are passionate with what they do, and will follow through completion the results they seek to achieve, not for their own glory, power, money or ego, but for the genuine good of the organization and its constituents.

Lead with their heart.  They use both the heart and mind.  They’re not afraid to show emotions.  Like all humans, they have their own vulnerability.  They could cry when showing empathy to others.  This doesn’t mean they’re “soft.”  They just know how to connect with the people they lead.

Focus on the long term.  In Bill George’s model, authentic leaders are focused on the long-term.  They nurture organizations and people over the long term, and spend time and effort to ensure continuity of leadership and organizations.  They despise short-termism that can show current benefits and prefer large dividends for the people and the organization over extended periods.

In his book, Bill George deplored the way some CEOs were running large organizations.  He wrote,  “… integrity, stewardship and sound governance are deeper issues that must be addressed by leaders themselves.”  To build enduring organizations, George believes that leaders of the highest integrity must have the “courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and recognize the importance of their service to society.”

Consistency

Authentic leaders have a genuine desire to serve others, empower the people they lead to make a difference, and are “guided by passion and compassion as they are by their logical minds.” George thinks that an authentic leader must develop his or her own leadership style “consistent with his or her personality and character.  The authenticity of the leader is more important than the style with which the leader leads.  To be authentic means to accept one’s faults and shortcomings, as well as to use one’s strengths in bringing the organization and the people to a better future.”

Simply put, authenticity is being genuine, not pretending to be someone else.  However, it doesn’t mean, “This is me.  I am bad, and I shall always be bad.  I am your leader, and you have to follow or else …”

On the other hand, it means, “I may not be perfect, but because I care for you and our group, I will improve myself where I am weak.  I will use my strengths to get us to where we all want to be.  I will not pretend to be what I am not.  Let’s help each other achieve our shared vision of a better future.”

Henna Inam said, “Authentic leadership is the full expression of ME for the benefit of WE.”

(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at ernie_cecilia@yahoo.com)


Article originally posted on Inquirer.net on 5/15/16

Meet Health Care's Major Spoilers: Theranos, Valeant, and Turing Pharmaceuticals

In health care, there are no shortcuts and no quick paths to market.

FORTUNE GLOBAL FORUM Monday, November 2nd, 2015 2015 FORTUNE GLOBAL FORUM  San Fransisco, CA, USA Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder and CEO  Panelists: Elizabeth Holmes  Fortune Editor Alan Murray      Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum

Health care companies face challenging times as they adapt to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while still delivering for customers and shareholders. Most companies have navigated these fast-changing times well. But three bad actors – former Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, former Valeant CEO Michael Pearson, and Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes – threaten to drag down the legitimate companies.

The Price Gouger

Pharma’s bad boy Shkreli became the poster child for abusing patients through price gouging by hiking the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old HIV/AIDS drug, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Then he had the audacity to flaunt it by saying, “I wish I had raised prices more.” Merck CEO Ken Frazier called Shkreli “a hedge fund guy masquerading as a pharmaceutical executive.” 

Shkreli incurred the wrath of the general public. Even presidential candidates rebuked him. His actions had broad implications because they threatened the already unsteady alliance between big pharmaceutical companies and the Obama Administration. These pharmaceutical companies had agreed to pay $70 billion to support ACA in exchange for a legal restriction on the U.S. government in negotiating drug prices.

 The “Quick Fix” CEO

Valeant’s Pearson also raised prices 500-800% on older drugs, but his flawed approach went much further. He claimed his company did not need to do research on new drugs because it could simply buy older drugs and take over companies like Salix and Bausch & Lomb. His business model called for limiting drug development expenses to 3% of revenues and paying only 3% in taxes through a series of clever tax schemes. Big investors like Sequoia, Pershing Square, and Value Act talked up the stock as Valeant’s market capitalization rose to $91 billion. And several other mid-sized pharmaceutical companies copied Valeant’s approach.

Those with a long-term view called out Valeant’s short-term game. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ran ads attacking the company. Warren Buffett told CNBC, “You wouldn’t want your son to grow up like Mike Pearson.” Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, called Valeant a “sewer.” The game ran out when a short-seller exposed Valeant’s distribution through specialty pharmacies that forced enormous price increases. In the past six months, Valeant investors have lost $81 billion, dragging down the activist funds that propelled the company’s growth.

The Promoter

Theranos’ Holmes claimed her company could render obsolete the one billion blood draws done in the U.S. with a simple prick of the finger – an exciting prospect that caused investors to value her private company at $9.1 billion. Her board of directors included several former U.S. senators and former presidential cabinet members, but few with experience in medical technology.

With her story and her glamour, Holmes became the darling of the media and Silicon Valley moguls. Theranos went directly to the consumer market by cutting big deals with Walgreens and Safeway, but Holmes never produced any test data to validate the claims, citing confidentiality concerns. The media passively accepted her lack of transparency.

Then the Wall Street Journal published an expose calling into question the effectiveness of the company’s testing methods and scrutinizing its resistance to share test results to back up its claims. WSJ published this piece in spite of heavy pressure from Theranos’ legal team, which was led by high-profile lawyer David Boies. Since the WSJ article was published, the company has imploded. Now the U.S. government has launched a criminal investigation to determine whether Holmes intentionally misled her investors. Thus far, Holmes has yet to produce validated test results proving Theranos’ claims.

A Hippocratic Oath for Health Care Companies

While these three companies and their leaders will be mere footnotes in business history, they cause great harm to legitimate companies trying to help patients. Their missteps confirm the importance of putting patients first, rigorous testing, FDA oversight, transparency, and pricing products to support patient access, regardless of their income bracket.

When scandals occur, they have a negative impact on companies that are doing things right. The subsequent public outcry tends to harm the committed, experienced companies, as politicians paint all health care companies with the same brush. This leads to delays in the FDA approval process for the most scientifically minded companies, denying patients products they need. It also creates public pressure for price controls.

Theranos, Valeant, and Turing took multiple shortcuts, and they won handsome short-term rewards for their behavior. But others who jumped on board have now lost billions. Neither Shkreli, Pearson, nor Holmes had any health care experience before taking over their companies: Shkreli worked at hedge funds, Pearson was a McKinsey consultant, and Holmes was a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s motto of “move fast and break things” may be valid for social media, but it doesn’t work for heart surgery, drug development, or medical devices.

The first rule of the Hippocratic Oath all doctors take is, “First, do no harm.” Why did Theranos, Valeant, and Turing assume so much risk? They focused on the short-term at the expense of their companies, their patients, and the health care industry. These companies proved what others have known all along: when you’re dealing with human health, shortcuts backfire.

Worst of all, these three companies fostered the impression that health care companies try to take advantage of an unsuspecting public. As a result, legitimate medical entrepreneurs now have trouble finding the funding required to do rigorous clinical trials in leading academic medical centers—something that Theranos refused to do.

For capitalism to work in the medical field, companies must be able to make the long-term investments required for breakthrough bio-pharmaceuticals and medical therapies. There are no shortcuts and no quick paths to market, but the long-term payoff can be enormous.

Investors with a fiduciary responsibility to their clients should carefully evaluate the leaders of companies they are investing in to ascertain their medical expertise and soundness. Entrepreneurs, who are essential to foster medical breakthroughs, need to learn the lessons from these bad actors and avoid taking shortcuts when human lives are at stake. We need to be patient with healthcare timelines, so we can enjoy the tremendous benefits that legitimate companies can offer.

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.


This article was originally published by Fortune.com on 5/10/16

CNBC: Huge Loss for Priceline

Priceline CEO Darren Huston has resigned. CNBC contributor and Former Medtronic CEO Bill George, discusses the resignation reportedly due to a relationship with an employee.

Watch the original video on CNBC.