More Than Sound: The Contemplative Leader: A Conversation with Bill George

Authentic leaders have developed a keen inner focus. They know what’s going on inside of themselves. They’re in touch with the relationship between their emotions and their actions. Most importantly, they possess a meta awareness – an awareness of awareness itself.

Bill George, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School and author of Discover Your True North, has some interesting methodologies for helping leaders master their self-awareness. Here’s what he had to say about a practical technique to develop self-awareness in his recent conversation with Daniel Goleman.


The Contemplative Leader

When I introduce the concept of inner focus, some people view it as being egotistical. I think it’s just the opposite. Most business leaders I know are incredibly focused, but they’re focused on their business goals. Inside they’re a mess. Why? Because they don’t take time to get clarity about what it is they’re trying to do and who they are. You can’t be a good leader until you have a real depth of awareness of who you are and what you’re about. Otherwise you’re just chasing your tail, so to speak.

All of us – not just leaders – are so outwardly oriented. We don’t truly know ourselves because we don’t spend any time on trying to know ourselves. We don’t take the time to examine why we react when X situation occurs. We just react according to our habits. Business as usual.

People often ask me, how do I gain self-awareness? For me, maintaining an introspective or contemplative practice has been essential to my success. I’ve been a meditator since 1975. I try to sit for at least a few minutes a day, twice a day.

Before that, I was a wreck. I was just chasing everything – 25, 50 objectives all at once. I had no sense of clarity. And when I began to meditate, I gained a sense of what’s really important. I learned to separate the wheat from the chaff. And I come out of it with a sense of clarity. Here are the three or four things that I really need to go focus on.

But I also got a much deeper sense of what I’m about and who I am, as well as a sense of wellbeing and tranquility. Without that sense of wellbeing you can’t really be an effective, focused leader. You can’t feel good about yourself if you continue to let ghosts from the past chase you.

Now, you’re contemplative practice doesn’t have to be meditation. It could be prayer. It could be talking with a loved one in great depth. It could be going for a jog to clear your head. It could be taking a long walk. I happen to like meditation, but I’m not saying that’s the only way.

Gain more insights on authentic leadership fromBill George in Leadership: A Master Class Training Guide and The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership.


This article was originally post 10/21/ 2015 on Top Harvard Professors Weigh in on VW Dieselgate: What It Means For Leadership, Culture and the Future of Work

The VW scandal, like every good scandal before it, has left business leaders wondering where exactly it all went wrong, who at VW is behind it and whether the brand can recover.

It even spawned a hashtag, #dieselgate, which has become the world’s unofficial forum for discussing causes of the crisis and its possible fixes – all while aiming a healthy amount of frustration and resentment at the company’s top executives.

We spoke to respected leadership influencers Bill George and Amy Edmondson, both Harvard Business School professors and prominent authors, to get their take on what business leaders can learn from the scandal.

These are, as Bill puts it, devastating times for VW.

For the traditionally well respected brand, the emissions scandal is a major breach of trust – and it’s the pre-meditated, calculated aspect of the violation that makes it so hard to swallow.

There’s no doubt that, in Amy’s words, “it’s actively deceptive, an act of fraud”, but the real question we’ve all been asking is this: how far up the corporate chain does it go?

If we were to believe the CEO of VW USA Michael Horn, not very far at all.

Horn, facing a grilling before US Congress last week, was to be seen accepting little of the blame: “This was not a corporate decision. No board meeting […] has authorised this. This was a couple of rogue software engineers who put this [deception device] in for whatever reason”.

This is, at best, a flimsy excuse.

As Bill wryly observes of the hearing, “Mr. Horn did not distinguish himself in the eyes of the public”.

Leadership Lesson #1: Take Full Responsibility.

It’s in the VW response we find clues to our first leadership lesson: to err is to be human, but to cover up is to sin.

“The cover-up can be worse than the crime”, Amy points out.

When the issue is that of broken trust, deflecting questions, acting slippery and distancing themselves from “the real villains” is one of the worst things VW executives can be seen doing.

It’s unlikely that anyone other than those involved know the truth of the matter, but it’s exactly this kernel of truth that needs to come out.

“The new CEO needs to be very hard-nosed in getting out publicly exactly who is responsible”, argues Bill – “the longer they withhold that information for, the harder it’s going to be”.

VW’s management of the crisis up to this point, then, has been less than ideal.

Although their senior leaders seem to be contrite – “We’ve totally screwed up”, admits Horn – this contrition runs barely skin deep.

Scapegoating and proclamations of C-Level innocence aren’t likely techniques to win any CEO of The Year awards, regardless of whether such proclamations are true.

Horn and his colleagues are equating innocence with ignorance, but ignorance is no excuse, says Amy:

“If the top officer of the corporation doesn’t know what’s happening that’s problematic – a serious leadership failure. Whether you know or not, you’re still responsible. You’re responsible for creating the culture that tells people what to do in the absence of prescriptive rules. This is a situation exactly like that”.

The real issue here is that of company culture. It’s what Bill calls the “executive responsibility” – whether your people feel that they can get away with breaching practices.

Which brings us to our second major leadership lesson.

Leadership Lesson #2: Culture Is The CEO’s Job.

Top executives might not know everything that’s going on in their company, but setting standards at the macro-level means guiding decisions at the micro-level.

To put it bluntly, if the leadership team had done its job and built the company culture on the right foundations, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Without doubt, the ever-increasing globalisation of business plays a role here – but it also can’t be used as an excuse.

As former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, a medical device company which operates in 140 companies, Bill certainly understands firsthand the difficulties of operating across continents:

“These events should bring home to every company in the world that when you’re operating in another country you have obligations in terms of their law and compliance. You have to go along with whichever laws they have in place, whether or not you agree with them, and that’s the Chief Executive’s job – to go out and speak to different people on the front-line in every country and ensure people are compliant.”

There’s no point crying over spilt milk, though. The real question is, what next?

For Amy, “what must come out of this is a top to bottom soul-searching. An evaluation of the culture, of the technical processes, of everything”.

The VW leadership team has remarkable challenge ahead of it. Broadly, they have a choice to view the crisis as either:

  • a crappy problem they must survive through, or
  • a remarkable opportunity to shake up and rebuild the company – for the better

Their choice will determine the direction of all their subsequent strategies and will determine the future of VW.

Leadership Lesson #3: Leverage The Silver Lining.

Experienced businesspeople know that every crisis tends to be an opportunity in disguise.

As leaders we learn and grow the most not when business is sailing smoothly, but when times are tough.

Which points to our next leadership lesson: VW can leverage this scandal to radically change how its people (as well as its customers, business partners and the society at large) think about work, performance and the environment.

Just like reformed ex-murderers become champions of human rights, in a bold move VW could use the story of its own turnaround to position itself as a champion of conscious, high-performance work culture and environmental protection.

Far fetched? Definitely. Difficult? Yes. Worth trying? Also yes. Will it be considered at the board level? Maybe. Will it be attempted? If current VW response is anything to go by, probably not.

Leadership Lesson #4: ROI of Authentic Leadership.

The crisis extends beyond VW.

One of the major implications of such scandals is the narrative they construct and play into: the narrative, as Bill notes, “of all business people being dishonest until you catch them. It’s a horrible narrative, but it’s damaging to business as a whole”.

This means businesses worldwide have work to do in the wake of the VW scandal.

“Other companies need to be very clear about differentiating themselves”, says Bill, “introducing testing of their own and assessing their own processes. Businesses can differentiate themselves here, because this was a moral failure. It was not an inadvertent mistake.”

For Amy, “the object lesson here is that there’s very powerful vicarious learning to be done. If other leaders aren’t taking this lesson to heart, they’re wasting the opportunity.

Executives need to take the opportunity to assess – where could we be falling short on our promise to customers and society? How can we resolve that?”

Which brings us to perhaps the most powerful leadership lesson of all: the truth will always out.

It’s a lesson, Amy notes, that it’s surprising we still have to teach: that “nowadays all secrets have expiration dates; there’s no such thing as a permanent secret”.

It’s this point that proves most salient, as the scandal rolls on: ability to lead with authenticity and integrity is a skill that’s in demand more than ever.

Monster Hiring Podcast: Authentic Leadership

Today’s leaders face greater challenges than ever before. 

Yet some of the most accomplished leaders are succeeding in their roles by following what Bill George calls their True North.

In this Monster podcast with the best-selling author Bill George, we hear the stories of authentic leaders, including PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi and Starbuck’s Howard Schultz, as highlighted in George’s latest book,Discover your True North (Wiley, 2015.) 

Learn what it takes to become an authentic leader, and how it can transform your life and career at any level in the organization. 

Tune in to this podcast on leadership with best-selling author Bill George. 

Medtronic's George, Red Hat's Whitehurst, Citrix's Lipson talk leadership in the C-Suite

Bill George knows leadership - and can attract it when he needs to. 

The CEO that took Medtronic from a $1.1 billion market capitalization to $65 billion, George brought a a leader-heavy crowd to downtown Raleigh early Wednesday for the launch of his new book, “Discover Your True North,” where he told them directly that leadership can’t just be about the balance sheet. There’s room, he says, for “passions” in the C-Suite.

In the audience were a few people used to talking numbers, executives such as ChannelAdvisor CEO David Spitz, SEPI Engineering & Construction CEO Sepi Saidi, Highwoods CEO Ed Fritsch, former IBM site lead Dick Daugherty, Empire Properties CEO Greg Hatem, MCNC CEO Jean Davis and dozens of other C-Levels.

George says he was on track to lead global technology firm Honeywell when he looked in his rear view mirror (literally on his way home from work) and realized he was miserable, an epiphany led him to the “best 12 years of my life,” when he left the company for the much smaller Medtronic, a firm making a big difference in the lives of patients. Satisfaction is achieved by focusing on what you want. Not what you think you want, he says, bringing two Raleigh businessmen in front of the crowd to prove his point: Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat and Jesse Lipson, site lead for Citrix’s Raleigh operation.

Whitehurst, too, left a “cushy job” for something completely different – in his case, it was Delta for Red Hat.

“Everyone thought I would be CEO,” he says of his time at Delta. Despite a bankruptcy, Delta was a success story, and one he could have ridden to the top. “I remember going home… and saying I can’t go somewhere to lay off a lot of people… I just can’t do it.”

And then the call from a much smaller company came – Red Hat.

“I think a lot of people get enamored with size… versus what gets you up and gets you excited every day,” he says.

Lipson, vice president and general manager, Workflow and Workspace Clouds, at Citrix did the opposite. He moved from something physically small to something bigger when the company he founded a decade ago, ShareFile, was bought out by Citrix. ShareFile had 80 employees when it was acquired, a move that propelled the headcount to more than 600 in downtown Raleigh. And the acquisition was necessary for growth.

His competitors were raising serious cash, he recalls.

“We decided we needed to do something,” he says. And the Citrix wallet would help ShareFile grow.

It’s a new generation of leadership, George says – where it’s about the impact, not just the balance sheet numbers. And it’s not just what leaders are doing in the boardroom.

Since selling, Lipson, like his cohorts on stage, has had time for what George calls “passions.” In Lipson’s case, it’s HQ Raleigh, the entrepreneurial coworking organization he cofounded downtown.

“I’m beginning to see the potential of that as a business,” he says, admitting that, at first, it seemed “like a charity project.”

Today, about 125 organizations exist in the space, creating real jobs and real innovation, he says.

"It’s exciting to see the innovation and entrepreneurship and all the energy in Raleigh and this whole area,” George told the crowd. "I think we’ve always been looking for innovation beyond the Silicon Valley model.”

But whether you’re in the C-Suite in the Raleigh skyline or overlooking Silicon Valley, leadership is different today than in George’s class of C-levels, he says. He points out cautionary tales, such as Enron. He points out to “adjustments” that, today, “would be considered fraud."

“What happened to my generation of CEOs?” he asks rhetorically. “I think we got caught up with charisma and style and equated it to leadership.”

The event was hosted by Three Ships Media CEO Zach Clayton, who has his own entrepreneurship story. Six years ago, Clayton turned down corporate offers to start Three Ships Media, which today employs 55 people. 

Lessons From Volkswagen (and Other) Scandals

From Huffington Post on Oct. 12, 2015 

"Without a moral center, you will swim in chaos" -- James Burke, Former Johnson & Johnson CEO

The Volkswagen scandal hit new lows this week when German-born Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen America, refused to acknowledge the people responsible for falsifying emissions tests on 11 million vehicles or to release essential documents. In front of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, he chose instead to blame lower-level engineers.

Does anyone really believe a scandal of this magnitude and scope was actually masterminded by a few engineers? In my experience, it would be highly unlikely for first-level engineers to take the risks inherent in such an illegal scheme and even more improbable that their superiors knew nothing about it, especially in a hierarchical organization like Volkswagen.

Unfortunately, this kind of dissembling and cover-up has become all too common in corporate circles. It only serves to harm ethical companies as the public loses trust in all corporate leaders.
It's been a bad year for organization ethics. In September United Airlines' CEO Jeff Smisek was forced to resign for cutting unethical deals with the head of the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey. Toshiba's top officials admitted to seven years of corrupt accounting. Even the soccer world was rocked when FIFA's executive committee acknowledged that corruption had reached its highest levels, and suspended president Sepp Blatter, right-hand man Jerome Valcke, and European head Michel Platini.

What should organizations do when the organization is corrupt from the top down? In my new book, Discover Your True North, I address how essential it is for leaders at the top to set standards for the entire organization. Yet all too often, people on the lowest rungs of the ladder are fired or blamed for illegal activities, while the bosses protect themselves. Even when forced to resign, they walk away with large termination settlements. For example, United's Smisek received nearly $20 million in termination pay after his corrupt dealings with public officials were exposed.

Every organization needs clear values that establish its principles and set firm ethical boundaries on its actions. Confronted by the 1980s Tylenol crisis, in which lethal poison was placed in Tylenol pills, former Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke used his company's famous Credo to guide his actions. He observed, "Without a moral center, you will swim in chaos."

Employees encounter many gray areas in their work. They need clarity about where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable actions. That's what IBM's CEO Sam Palmisano established after becoming CEO. He shifted IBM's entire 440,000 person organization - which operates in many countries where corruption is the norm -- to "Leading by Values."

Former Citigroup CFO Sallie Krawcheck took a heroic action when she insisted on refunding losses to clients misled by her firm during the 2008 financial crisis. She bluntly asserted Citi broke clients' trust by pushing low-risk alternative investments that were actually high risk. When CEO Vikram Pandit vehemently disagreed, Krawcheck took her argument directly to Citi's board of directors, which backed her actions. A miffed Pandit later fired her. Krawcheck knew she could always get a job, but she recognized she couldn't recover her values.

But what can be done when organizations like FIFA and Volkswagen are corrupt at the top? The only solution is to clean house at the highest levels of the organization and weed out the poison in the system. Otherwise, the organization will ultimately revert to its unethical practices.

That's what Germany's Siemens did when audits revealed it paid out $1.8 billion in bribes. Board chair Heinrich von Pierer, who presided over the unethical dealings as CEO, was forced to resign. Board chair Gerhard Cromme and CEO Peter Loescher were brought in to clean up the mess. To their credit, they squarely faced the issues, terminating the company's entire executive committee and firing 400 top executives. A new governance and compliance system was established, and all employees went through extensive compliance training. It cost the firm $2.7 billion in fines and legal fees, but now Siemens is operating ethically throughout the world and has been restored to full health.

FIFA and Volkswagen would be wise to follow Siemens' approach of bringing in outsiders to address their scandals, with outsiders leading the board and executive management. Their actions should include hiring new law firms and accountants to conduct independent investigations, and terminate anyone who is directly or indirectly involved with corrupt dealings. In FIFA's case, this may include current members of its governing board involved in the corruption.
Leaders should always put the institution first. Instead, all too often organizations protect individuals until they are "proven" guilty, as Blatter's attorney is arguing FIFA should do. It is far better to separate them completely from the organization, and let the courts determine criminal culpability.

Finally, transparency is essential: the board should reveal all the findings of its legal and accounting reports and make them public immediately. It is far better for the board to reveal them rather than waiting for political bodies, the media, or the courts to extract this information. By vigorously investigating its own actions and transparently sharing the findings, the organization begins to rebuild the credibility necessary to return to business.

Only through aggressive, transparent actions can corrupt organizations be restored to fulfill their missions.

Bill George Interview: 'Northern' Exposure to Leadership

From Workforce, Published on Oct. 12, 2015

by James Tehrani

No one ever said leading is easy. You hear about leading by example all the time, but what about examples of leading? Bill George, the former CEO of medical-device-company Medtronic Inc., draws up a road map to leadership in his recently updated book “Discover Your True North.” In the book, he interviews 125 people about their ideas on leadership. What he concludes is that people who learn from their life experiences, or “crucibles” as he calls them, and follow their leadership compass “northward” can achieve “authentic leadership.” Workforce editor James Tehrani recently caught up with George, now a Harvard University business professor, to learn more. An edited transcript follows.

Workforce: Can you give me an idea of what you mean by ‘true north’?

Bill George: True north is your most deeply held beliefs, the values you live by and the principles you lead by. So it’s really the essence of who you are. Who are you as a person? You know your center; it’s like your moral compass.

WF: You talk about the myth that leaders are born. Can you explain that?

George: I think it’s [leadership] a combination of the qualities you’re born with, but then you have to develop. It’s no different from a cellist who’s going to Carnegie Hall. You don’t just show up; you have to practice every day. And I think people need to practice their leadership every day.

WF:  What are some of the qualities that you would look for in a leader?

George: Far and away No. 1 is authenticity. Are they genuine people? Are they good in their skin? Are they real? And do they come across as who they are? There’s some free-flowing ideas about faking it to make it or pretending you have charisma or putting on a good impression for an interviewer. That’s a good way to get in trouble and hire the wrong person. … I think all too often we look at résumés rather than the person behind the résumé. That’s where big mistakes are made.

WF: You interviewed 125 leaders for your book, was there an answer that surprised you?

George: We asked people about their traits and characteristics, and they wouldn’t talk about that. They wanted to talk about their life experiences, their life story. We never expected how important that was going to be. … We hit upon the thing that was the most important, and that’s the impact of the greatest crucible of their life, the most challenging experience they’ve ever had and how they framed that. And the great leaders framed those experiences not as victims — they didn’t just stuff them and forget about them — they used them as opportunities for growth. In the new book, we talk about an emerging concept called ‘post-traumatic growth’ of how people are using challenging experiences early in life to grow as leaders and as human beings.

Georgia Tech: IMPACT Presents: Bill George, Author, "Discover Your True North"

From, posted 10/9/15.


Scheller College of Business

800 West Peachtree St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
LeCraw Auditorium


Thursday, October 15

4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Georgia Tech alum, Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. His previous work includes four best-selling books: 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, True North, Finding Your True North, and Authentic Leadership.  With co-author Doug Baker he published True North Groups. His newest collection includes Discover Your True North and Discover Your True North Fieldbook.

Mr. George is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic.  Mr. George currently serves as director of ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and the Mayo Clinic and also served on the board of Novartis and Target Corporation.  He is currently a trustee of the World Economic Forum USA and Guthrie Theater and a former Trustee of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He has served as board chair for Allina Health System, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, United Way of the Greater Twin Cities, and Advamed.

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012.  He has been named one of "Top 25 Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years" by PBS; "Executive of the Year-2001" by the Academy of Management; and "Director of the Year-2001-02" by the National Association of Corporate Directors.  Mr. George has made frequent appearances on television and radio and his articles have appeared in Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and numerous publications.

Mr. George received his BSIE with high honors from Georgia Tech, his MBA with high distinction from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar, and honorary PhDs from Georgia Tech, Bryant University, and University of St. Thomas.  During 2002-03 he was professor at IMD International and Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, and executive-in-residence at Yale School of Management.

Bill George will speak at Georgia Tech's IMPACT Speaker Series on Thursday, October 15, 2015. Free books will be given to those in attendace. A book signing will be held in the Thorton Atrium following his talk. 

About the Impact Speaker Series:

Since 2002, the IMPACT Speaker Series has brought highly successful business leaders from a variety of industries to campus to share their experiences and give advice to students and other entrepreneurs on topics ranging from "building a venture around intellectual capital" to "successful entrepreneurship in large organizations" and "socially responsible leadership". The weekly series provides Georgia Tech students, alumni and the Atlanta business community an opportunity to network and learn from successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and notable business and non-profit leaders. The lecture series is sponsored by the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Further sponsorship for this talk is provided by:  H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems EngineeringWallace H. Coulter Dept of Biomedical Engineering, Institute for People and TechnologyHealth Systems Institute, School of Interactive Computing, and Scheller College of Business.

The series is free and open to the public, reservations are not required. 

CNBC: Dorsey Returning to Twitter and Ellen Kullman Stepping Down at Dupont

Discussion about Jack Dorsey running Twitter & Square; Ellen Kullman stepping down from Dupont.

Watch the video HERE.

Huffington Post: Are You an Empowering Leader?

From The Huffington Post, Posted October 6, 2015.

"Where is the spiritual value in rowing? The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew." -- George Yeoman Pocock, boatbuilder, 1936 Olympic gold medal winner

Stepping into a Zappos call center is like walking into a circus. Phones ring, voices rise, and laughter bounces around the room. If you closed your eyes, you'd think you'd entered a loud family reunion, not a billion dollar company.

Zappos employees work in a fiercely proud culture. Only 16 years after founding Zappos, CEO Tony Hsieh has made the online shoe-retailer into one of best places to work in the world. Zappos employees not only love their work, they care deeply about others in the community.

How did Hsieh do it? By empowering his employees to lead.

In Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen writes, "At the heart of leadership is the leader's relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other is a reliable vessel."

There was a time when leaders thought their role was to exert power over others. No longer. Today's best leaders -- people like Ford's Alan Mulally, General Motors' Mary Barra, and Google's Larry Page -- recognize their leadership is most effective when they empower others to step up and lead. That's exactly what the new generation of Gen X and Millennials expect from their leaders, and they respond with great performance.

Tony Hsieh focuses on relationships first and business second. In good times and bad, Hsieh's communications are authentic, funny, and informal. He speaks directly and personally to his colleagues. As Hsieh says "if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff...will just happen naturally."

Hsieh reflects traits of an "empowering leader." These leaders have discovered that helping people find purpose delivers superior results than forcing subordinates to be loyal followers. By giving others the latitude to lead, they expand their own potential impact.

So, how can you empower others? In Discover Your True North, I profile five things great leaders do.

1. Treat Others as Equals
2. Listen Actively
3. Learn From People
4. Share Life Stories
5. Align Around the Mission

Treat Others as Equals
We respect people who treat us as equals. Warren Buffett, for example, gives equal attention to every person he meets. He has the same sandwich and Cherry Coke combination with a group of wide-eyed students as he does with his close friend Bill Gates. Buffett does not rely upon his image to make people feel he is important or powerful. He genuinely respects others, and they respect him as much for those qualities as for his investment prowess. By being authentic in his interactions, Buffett empowers people to lead in their own authentic way.

Listen Actively
We are grateful when people genuinely listen to us. Active listening is one of the most important abilities of empowering leaders, because people sense such individuals are genuinely interested in them and not just trying to get something. The leadership scholar Warren Bennis was an example of a world-class listener. He patiently listened as you explained your ideas and then thoughtfully contributed astute observations that came from a deep well of wisdom and experience.

Learn from People
We feel respected when others believe they can learn from us or ask for our advice. The best advice I ever got about teaching came from my Harvard Business School (HBS) colleague Paul Marshall, who was one of HBS's greatest teachers. He told me, "Bill, don't ever set foot in an HBS classroom unless you genuinely want to learn from the students." I have taken his advice into every class I have taught for the past 12 years, telling MBA students and executives, "I feel certain I will learn a lot more from you than you do from me." The students find that hard to believe at first, but they soon see how their feedback helps me understand how today's leaders and MBA students think.

Share Life Stories
When leaders are willing to be open and share their personal stories and vulnerabilities, people feel empowered to share their own stories and uncertainties in return. On Thanksgiving eve in 1996, I sent an e-mail to all Medtronic employees, expressing my gratitude for the support Penny and I received following her ordeal with breast cancer and chemotherapy. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who spontaneously shared their stories with us.

Align Around the Mission
The most empowering condition of all is when the entire organization aligns with its mission, and people's passions and purpose synchronize with each other. It is not easy to get to this position, especially if the organization has a significant number of cynics or disgruntled people. Nonetheless, it is worth whatever effort it takes to create an aligned environment, including removal of those who don't support the mission.

Leaders of every organization have an important responsibility to articulate how their company contributes to humankind. At Medtronic, our mission was to restore people to full health and wellness. At Disney, it's to make people happy. Even at the most "boring" business-to-business company, the business can play a powerful role in improving the lives of its stakeholders - customers, employees, suppliers, and community.

With leadership comes responsibility. As Clayton Christensen wrote, "No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement."

It's time to lead authentically. You can do so by focusing on empowering others.

A team of empowered leaders all rowing in the same direction is hard to beat.

Forbes: Why Leaders Need To Keep Their Eyes on True North

From Forbes, Posted October 5, 2015.

The term “authenticity” is much bandied about in leadership circles these days. Politicians like the new leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn or the would-be Democrat candidate for President Bernie Sanders seem to be gaining from a desire among the public (some parts of it at any rate) for a change from the slick and manufactured. Similar notions are abroad in business, too. Brands seek to demonstrate their authenticity – through how they manufacture their goods, how they do business or just where they come from. And now corporate leaders – perhaps because they are having to guide their organizations through turbulent times – are trying to show how real and genuine they are.

To be fair, Bill George, whose book, Discover Your True North (Wiley), is published this month, has been a proponent of authentic leadership for some time. The current book continues a theme that began back in 2003, when he published Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, and continued four years later with True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Indeed, a significant part of the book deals with leaders interviewed for the 2007 book, and George is pleased to report that “the vast majority of them are doing exceptionally well.”

However, while there are many fascinating stories of leaders who have overcome great adversity – for example, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, who still remembers his roots in a poor neighborhood of New York City and Reatha Clark King, who has gone from the cotton fields of Georgia to become a director of such companies as Exxon-Mobil and Wells Fargo – the book is not a parade of feel-good stories about down-home values winning out. Rather, George, a former CEO of the medical technology and services company Medtronic who now teaches leadership at Harvard Business School, devotes space early on to how leaders can “lose sight of their True North” and so run into trouble. “People who lose their way are not necessarily bad people. They have the potential to become good leaders, even great leaders. However, somewhere along the way, they get pulled off course,” he writes.

Given that there is plenty of advice available on how to become a good or even great leader, it is perhaps worth lingering on the ways in which George believes people can drift off course.

Losing Touch with Reality. “Leaders who focus on external gratification instead of inner satisfaction have trouble staying grounded,” writes George. “They reject the honest critic who holds up a mirror and speaks the truth. Instead, they surround themselves with sycophants – supporters telling them what they want to hear.”

Fearing Failure. “Underneath their bravado lies the fear that they are not qualified for such powerful leadership roles,” says George. As a result, they become paranoid that at some point they will be found out.

Craving Success. This is the other side of fearing failure. “Most leaders want to do a good job for their organizations, be recognized, and rewarded accordingly,” George writes. However, when they achieve success, they gain added power and enjoy the prestige that accompanies it. “That success can go to their heads, and they develop a sense of entitlement. At the height of some leaders’ power, success itself creates a deep desire to keep it going, so they are prone to pushing the limits, thinking they can get away with it.”

The Loneliness Within. As the cliché has it, it is lonely at the top. Quite simply, even the ablest people can be thrown off balance by the enormity of the task – and the responsibility – that they have taken on. In their efforts to stay on top of things, many leaders end up losing touch with people outside work – friends, spouses, children – to the extent that their work becomes their life. A particular aspect of this is that in seeking to satisfy all the external forces putting pressure on them, they lose sight of their own view. “Over time little mistakes turn into major ones. No amount of hard work can correct them,” says George. “Instead of seeking wise counsel at this point, they dig a deeper hole. When the collapse comes, there is no avoiding it.”

In examining leaders who have lost their way, George and his colleagues identify five types. All are linked directly by their failure to develop themselves. They are:

Imposters, who lack self-awareness and self-esteem;

Rationalizers, who deviate from their values;

Glory Seekers, who are motivated by seeking the world’s acclaim;

Loners, who fail to build personal support structures; and

Shooting Stars, who lack the grounding of an integrated life.

Through asking readers to look closely at the archetypes – and the well-known examples he cites (who include former New York Stock Exchange CEO Richard Grasso and former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld but are not confined to fallen financial services giants) – George hopes to instill in leaders and those aspiring to join them that just wanting the position is not enough. “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,” he writes. “There is nothing wrong with desiring these outward symbols [his italics] if, and only if, they are balanced by a deeper desire to serve something greater than yourself. Extrinsic rewards exert a force that can pull you away from True North if not counterbalanced by a deeper purpose or calling that gives you a passion to lead.”