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Toronto Globe and Mail: Staying grounded is key to balancing life and leadership

Successful leaders live complex and demanding lives. As the frequency of communication has intensified, the pace of business has increased.

Yet many of us have not learned how to deal with this. There is never enough time to doeverything you want to do, because the world around you makes ever greater demands on your time. Nor will you be able to achieve a perfect balance between all aspects of your life – career, family, friends and community, and personal life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs. How you do so will determine how fulfilling your life will be.

Authentic leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. In doing so, they avoid getting too cocky during high points and forgetting who they are during low points. Spending time with family and close friends, getting physical exercise, having spiritual practices, doing community service, and returning to places where they grew up are all ways to stay grounded. This grounding is essential to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.

To avoid letting professional commitments dominate their time, authentic leaders must give priority to their families and take care of themselves personally, in terms of their health, recreation, spirituality, and introspection. There is no silver-bullet solution to this issue, but neglecting to integrate the facets of life can derail you. To lead an integrated life, you need to bring together the major elements of your personal life and professional life, including work, family, community, and friends, so that you can be the same person in each environment. For authentic leaders, being true to themselves by being the same person at work that they are at home is a constant test, yet personal fulfilment is their ultimate reward. Doing so will make you a more effective leader in all aspects of your life.

Stay Grounded

To integrate your life, you must remain grounded in your authentic self, especially when the outside world is chaotic. Well-grounded leaders have a steady and confident presence. They do not show up as one person one day and another the next. Integration takes discipline, particularly during stressful times, when it is easy to become reactive and slip into bad habits.

Leading is high-stress work. There is no way to avoid stress when you are responsible for people, organizations, outcomes, and uncertainties of the environment. For global leaders, long overseas trips intensify the stress. The higher you go, the greater your freedom to control your destiny but also the higher the stress. The question is not whether you can avoid stress but how you can manage and relieve it to maintain your own sense of equilibrium.

When Medtronic’s Chris O’Connell gets stressed, he said:

“I feel myself slipping into a negative frame of mind. When I’m at my best, I’m very positive and feel I can accomplish anything, both at work and home. When I become negative, I lose effectiveness as a leader and become even less effective at home. Both positive and negative emotions carry over between work and home.”

Focus on What Matters

When Sheryl Sandberg worked as a McKinsey management consultant, her manager implored her to take more control over her career, telling her, “McKinsey will never stop making demands on our time, so it is our responsibility to draw the line ... We need to determine how many hours we are willing to work and how many nights we travel.”

After the birth of her son, Sandberg adjusted her in-office hours at Google to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., enabling her to nurse her son. To compensate, Sandberg got up in the early morning hours to check e-mails and worked at home after her son went to bed. She learned that by focusing her time, she did not need to spend 12 hours a day in the office.

“I focused on what really mattered and became more efficient, only attending meetings that were truly necessary. I was determined to maximize my output while away from home,” said Sandberg. “I also paid more attention to the working hours of those around me; cutting unnecessary meetings saved time for them as well.”

Stay true to your roots

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz goes back to Brooklyn from time to time, Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell stays in regular contact with his old friends in Homestead, Penn., which helps him keep perspective on life in Silicon Valley. To restore themselves and keep their sense of perspective, leaders may have a special place they can go with their families on weekends and vacations. Many renowned leaders found they can think more clearly when they escape: Thomas Jefferson had Poplar Forest and Winston Churchill had Chartwell. For decades, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and his wife went to an old family farm they own in Massachusetts.

“I once told the president, ‘This is my Camp David,’” said Shultz. “When I go there, I put on an old pair of pants and old shoes. I am so relaxed, I don’t worry about anything.”

Find time for yourself

To manage the stress of our leadership roles, we need personal time to reflect. Some people practise meditation or yoga to centre themselves and relieve anxiety. Others find solace in prayer. Some people find they can release tension by jogging. Others find relief through laughing with friends, listening to music, reading, or going to movies. It’s not important what you do, as long as you establish routines to relieve your stress and think clearly about life, work, and personal issues. It is critical not to abandon these routines when facing an especially busy period, because that is when you most need your stress reduction techniques.

This article was originally posted to The Toronto Globe and Mail What Does Authenticity Really Mean?

Authenticity is a hot word in leadership discussions. The modern workplace is more informal and less hierarchical than in the past. Command-and-control management doesn’t fly withpeople hired for their creative brainpower. They want leaders who inspire them, and give them reasons for working beyond a paycheck.

But all this requires a nuanced understanding of what "authenticity" should mean. In a business context, it doesn’t mean the "be yourself" phrase that probably pops into your mind first. For evidence of this, consider that many of Donald Trump’s supporters praise him for what they view as authenticity. He says what he thinks. He doesn’t seem to care what other people think of that. Yet business leaders emulating this approach might quickly find themselves in trouble. "Being authentic is much more than ‘being yourself,’" says Gareth Jones, coauthor of Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes to Create an Authentic Organization. "If you want to be a leader, you have to be yourself—skillfully."


To be themselves—skillfully—smart leaders first recognize that authenticity is not about behaving in the exact same way, regardless of context. You may be a casual person, but dressing in shorts when other people expect suits sends a message of disrespect. "It’s not about style. It’s the person inside of you," says Bill George, author of Discover Your True North: Becoming an Authentic Leader.

And even with this, you need to think about how the person inside of you comes across. In your personal life, you may love to share your religious faith because it’s what motivates you and inspires you. That doesn’t mean you should proselytize in staff meetings.

Second, smart leaders recognize that "effective leadership is a skillful, authentic role performance," says Jones. You might be the kind of person who, deep down, likes to sit in the hotel and watch movies when you’re jet-lagged. But if you’ve jetted in somewhere to boost morale and excite people about your mission, leadership means you need to suit up and do what they are expecting you do.


Here’s a more workable definition of authenticity in a business context. It’s about being consistent in word and deed, having the same fundamental character in different roles, and being comfortable with your past. Indeed, the first definition of "authentic" that pops up when I type it in Google is "of undisputed origins." "You can change your future, but you can’t change your past," says Jones. "Your past made you who you are."

That doesn’t mean authentic leaders need perfect stories explaining all their life choices. "I think storytelling has become a bit of a kind of fad," says Jones. There is nothing authentic about hunting through past events with a coach to determine a story that ties neatly to your current product line.

Understanding what shaped you can help you interact with other people without the barriers that lead to disengagement. "Authentic leadership is inherently a developmental process," says George. It’s about becoming "the person you are created to be."

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Meditate This: Podcast - The "CEO" of Mindful Leadership

Sure, he was the CEO of Medtronic and a senior executive at Honeywell and Litton Industries. And sure he sits on the Board of Directors for Exxon Mobil, the Mayo Clinic, and Goldman Sachs. And yes, he's a professor of Management Practice and a Henry B. Arthur Fellow of Ethics at Harvard Business School.

But Bill George is no central casting idea of a "businessman." A meditation practitioner for more than 40 years, Bill has spent long periods on retreat and still starts each plane trip with a 20-minute meditation. So listen to this very special perspective from a man who is trying to help leaders transform their thinking from "me" to "we."

Link to Interview


This article was originally posted to Meditate This!

TotalPicture Radio: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence, Diverse Leadership Teams, and Empowering People

Don't expect the same Q&A with Bill George on other podcast interviews. We don't go by the talking points provided by the publisher. True North, originally based on first-person interviews with 125 leaders, became a must-read business classic when it was first introduced in 2007. Today, authenticity has become a key issue in the C-Suite, boardroom, in HR and recruiting initiatives, corporate communications, marketing campaigns, and of course, politics.

In his substantive follow up to True North - Discover Your True North: Becoming An Authentic Leader, Bill George, former Medtronic chairman and CEO, and senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School, Introduces 47 additional interviews with leaders who represent the diversity of a new generation.

Welcome to a Leadership Channel podcast on TotalPicture, this is Peter Clayton. Today, I'm pleased to welcome Bill George to the program.

Today's feature interview with Bill George is brought to you by RecruitiFi, a unique new category of recruiting that connects top recruiters with companies looking to hire exceptional talent. Use this link and receive a special discount offer on your first JobCast.

I also want to give a shout-out to our friend and frequent contributor to TotalPicture David Dalka, who was instrumental in organizing today's interview, research and development of our talking points. David was scheduled to participate in our discussion with Bill, but couldn't, due to technical issues with his Skype connection.

Questions Peter Clayton asks Bill George in this podcast:

I've had a number of retired and former CEOs tell me what they miss the most is the corporate jet. What do you miss the most?

Although Medtronic has a diverse board of directors (good for them)! What did you learn from the transition as CEO to former CEO? Going from 110% to 0%

You are on a number of important boards, including Mayo Clinic and Goldman Sachs. Joining a board of directors is not what it was 20 years ago. What have you learned from your participation in a number of high-profile boards?

What advice do you have for those seeking, or considering board membership?               

Speaking about 20 years ago... it's a different world today. Corporate PR departments no longer control the message: Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor and others do. What recommendations do you have for leaders regarding social media - and how they consistently deliver their "True North" in such a volatile 24/7 environment?

M&A deal are back in fashion. However, corporate cultures often clash. - (Say BofA and ML) What advice to you have for those in management and leadership positions caught in a merger? How can True North help determine outcomes?

Bill George is Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, the world's leading medical technology company. Under his leadership, Medtronic's market capitalization grew from $1.1 billion to $60 billion, averaging 35 percent a year. He is the author of the best-selling Authentic Leadership and a board member of Goldman Sachs, Exxon, and the Mayo Clinic. George has been recognized as "Executive of the Year" by the Academy of Management, "Director of the Year" by the National Association of Corporate Directors, and received the prestigious Bower Award for Business Leadership - given annually to the nation's top business leader.

TotalPicture Radio Interview


This article was originally posted to TotalPicture Radio

ManagerMojo: What is Your True North?

It is critical for leaders to be clear about their True North.  The leaders of yester-year can’t be the leaders of today with the evolutionary and revolutionary move from the ‘Me’ generation to the ‘We’ generation.  While today’s young leaders desire collaboration, transparency and engagement they thrive on working in a world of diversity and technology.  They are inspired and excited to commit to causes and efforts greater than themselves.  While these young people are setting a new pace, there is opportunity for young and old alike to learn from one another to make the world a better place and to lead by their example.  This inspiring podcast will get you on track to setting your own pace.  You will learn more about how to set your own true north and live the life of your dreams.

Connect will Bill Here!

Bill welcomes hearing from you!  Click HERE.

Listen to the interview HERE


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3 Lessons From One Of America's Great Culture Builders

I’ve spent the past four years studying the greatest sports organizations in America—from the San Antonio Spurs to the Kansas City Royals—in a search for the shared characteristics of great teams. One of my business mentors on this subject is Bill George, longtime CEO of Medtronic—the world’s largest medical technology company—who currently leads an executive education program at Harvard Business School.

After building an extraordinary culture at Medtronic, George published his findings on the habits of Great business leadership in the 2007 book “True North,” which detailed how value-centered companies always outperform profit-centered organizations. Without question, it is one of the greatest reads on this subject.

Last month, George released an updated version of his book Discover Your True North, that includes dozens of new interviews with some of the business world’s true authentic leaders about the importance of purpose in corporate team-building. I had a chance to speak with George about how this underutilized value is driving companies to be more successful today.

His lessons:

1. A Sense Of Purpose Can Attract—and Retain—Valuable Talent…Especially As Our Workforce Gets Younger!

According to the Pew Research Center, more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials—adults age 18 to 34 in 2015—and unquestionably the largest demographic in the American workforce. These young employees value more than a hefty paycheck and, as George said to me, desire, “a sense of meaning and purpose” in their work.

“People want to work for more than just a job or money, and that is even more true at the lower pay scales than it is with the upper,” George said. “ Leaders have to realize that it’s not just about money, but it’s also about inspiring the people that are doing the work.  This is true for the service industry and many other industries as well. It is all about how you treat customers and the relationships that are formed.”

The young people working for my company reflect this trend; Millennials are team-oriented, love solving problems, and are attracted to strong company values.  If a team desires to be Great, then it is critically important to provide a strong sense of purpose that attracts, and keeps, employees.

2. Great Teams Communicate Culture And Values.

“It’s very important that leaders consistently share the values of the organization to their ranks,” George said. “This is especially true when communicating with front-line employees down the pyramid of an organization, who are more in touch with customers than the CEO or executive team.”

This lesson is so important, yet often disregarded; truthfully, many companies do not know how – or when – to articulate their purpose to employees because it is hasn’t been well defined by leadership. Important lesson, George said: Commit boldly in writing who you’re in service of and why it matters, then share, share, share.

Many organizations have a mission statement that has values attached to it, but have very little meaning to the people,” George said. “If a company is not living their values and mission then there is no point in having one. And CEO’s have a responsibility to be go out and talk with their people. Leaders need to be abiding by such values if they want others to adopt them.”

3. Engagement and Transparency Matter

If a leader attracts the right talent to their organization and empowers them with purpose, then the next step, according to George, is keeping them engaged.

“CEO’s need to spend their time changing the culture and ensuring employee engagement,” he said. “Unfortunately, many companies look for short-term profits instead of developing long-term strategies for company growth…which ultimately brings down engagement scores.”

George says that employee engagement should not be a footnote for companies, and that leaders should invest in enhancing culture and becoming more transparent.  “Special organizational cultures have high engagement scores and profitability because they attach a purpose to their work, and are more open,” George said. “The leaders I profiled in my book are much more transparent than corporate leadership of the past. We’ve moved from an era of self-interest to an era where leaders recognize their role is to serve others and a greater cause.”

George and his leadership tips are applicable to any team desiring to be great. As leaders, we should all consider the value of purpose-driven work and employee engagement. Additionally, frequent communication of our organization’s values will not only motivate employees, but create the foundation of a very profitable future.

“Leaders and employees should both know that you can have a very fulfilling life and a successful career by being true to what you believe,” George said. “You don’t have to perpetuate or go along with the status quo. Be bold, daring and different.”

This article was orginally published on

Minnesota Public Radio: Kerri Miller Friday Roundtable

This week on the MPR Friday Roundtable, I had the privilege of speaking with other CEOs about diversity in the workplace, how to motivate workers and the role of vulnerability in leadership.

Listen to my conversation with former chairman and CEO of Medtronic; MayKao Hang, president and CEO of the Amherst Wilder Foundation; and Jay Lund, chairman president and CEO at Andersen Corporation.


This post was originally published on Minnesota Public Radio 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.

'Uncle Dupie is dead': Kullman's exit is seismic shift

From Delaware Online, posted October 12, 2015


Dupont CEO Ellen Kullman’s Abrupt Exit a Seismic Shift Signaling Trouble for Company and Delaware.

CHAPTER 1: End of an era

When former DuPont Co. executive Dave English learned that company CEO Ellen Kullman would step down in a matter of days, it hit him like a kick in the gut. “DuPont does not do things this way,” the former general manager of the DuPont Country Club said to himself.

His next thought: "This is the end of an era."

English is not alone. To many in the extended DuPont community, Kullman’s uncharacteristic departure so soon after she led the company through its first-ever proxy battle, against activist investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management, is evidence the much-celebrated “DuPont Family” is not that close.

Kullman’s abrupt resignation Monday, which many believe was forced, signals the end to the benevolent patriarch that brought enormous pride and prosperity to Delaware in the 20th century, former executives say.

“Uncle Dupie is dead,” said Tatiana Copeland, a du Pont family member and former DuPont manager. “That message came through loud and clear.”

While it’s been apparent for some time that the $66 billion company with 60,000 employees worldwide was moving away from its long tradition of resoluteness, patience and loyalty in the face of difficulties, Kullman’s exodus came as a seismic shift, said Kurt Landgraf, former DuPont chief financial officer who was in line to become CEO in the late 1990s. Now, it appears DuPont corporate governance is no different than other major corporations focused largely on quarterly profits, he said.

“This hits home because it is home. Ellen Kullman was a homegrown CEO whose family is here. This marks the end to the ‘DuPont Family’ tradition,” said Landgraf, who served as chairman of DuPont Pharmaceuticals.

What's more, the board’s leadership during this crisis, doesn’t bode well for DuPont’s future, former executives and leadership experts say. It's unprecedented in DuPont's modern history not to have a seamless transition to a new CEO.

“That the board had so little backbone is shameful,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at Yale School of Management. “In fact, there has just been one tough quarter since shareholders enthusiastically ratified Ellen Kullman’s leadership (following the proxy vote). Such short-term thinking is exactly what DuPont attributed to Nelson Peltz and Trian – but I do not believe Peltz has ever acted as impulsively as DuPont’s own board in a key strategic decision.”

Even Peltz said last spring that he did not want to replace Kullman, but had issues with the board. Peltz, who proposed splitting the company, wanted to put Kullman in charge of an entity that would have included the agriculture, industrial biosciences, and nutrition and health businesses, according to insiders. Peltz and Edward Garden, Trian’s co-founder, declined to comment.

Now, plans to slash company expenses by $1.6 billion next year, on top of the cuts already made by Kullman, have many in that state dreading what’s in store for DuPont and Delaware in 2016. That deep a reduction will be difficult for even DuPont to absorb, Landgraf said.

Many fear Delaware, with approximately 7,000 DuPont employees, will bear the brunt of the pain. "It's not going to be very comfortable," Landgraf said.

“I’m very worried,” said Michael Bowman, former DuPont vice president and general manager of advanced materials system and now head of the Delaware Technology Park at the University of Delaware. “DuPont has changed many times and it’s going to change now, but I’m fearful.”

Unless the board reverses itself completely and brings in a leader who will build the organization, DuPont could destroy itself, Sonnenfeld said.

“The company’s worst enemy is the board of directors,” Sonnenfeld said.

But others are withholding judgment.

"I am not judging the board in this case without knowing more. It is altogether possible that Trian Fund was threatening another proxy fight due to the decline in the stock price, and that the board and CEO Kullman concluded that some action was required to avoid another difficult proxy contest," said Bill George, former chief executive of Medtronic and a director Goldman Sachs.

Now, George is taking a wait-and-see approach, saying it's “way too soon” to know what the new leadership will do. The temporary chief executive, Edward Breen, needs some time to analyze the situation, he said.

"I would not judge Ed Breen’s actions before he decides what to do. I suspect he will lead an intense examination of the company’s portfolio post-Chemours, and work with the board to decide. I think he will realize the value of DuPont’s central research labs and keep it healthy. He may elect to take out more costs from the operation. He may also conclude to spin off the agriculture business, as other companies have done," George said.

Significant cuts may be required to keep the company intact and on-track, he said. Breen, is equal to the job, George added.

“He is a highly competent and rational person, with a long-term view, as he has proven in the past,” George said. “The key will be to appoint a new CEO before the end of the year, and before the activists descend once again.”

CHAPTER 2: The DuPont Age

DuPont’s unparalleled influence over the past 213 years has woven itself so deeply into the fabric of the state, it's often not apparent.

But it was evident recently in the excited face of a toddler at A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children.

Inside a glass atrium, a pig-tailed pre-schooler was having the time of her life in front of an interactive 50-foot wide, 9-foot high digital video wall. With a wave of her arms she made a blue bird fly in the Disney-style magical landscape depicted on the screen. Her father was having trouble getting her away.

The so-called Discovery Zone was made possible with a $2.5 million gift from DuPont for the capital campaign supporting a 2014 hospital expansion. Lori Counts, operational vice president at Nemours Fund for Children's Health, said DuPont has been extremely generous to hospital over the years.

“DuPont’s support was critical to this extensive project,” Counts said.

Indeed, the company’s impact on Delaware in the 20th century is impossible to overstate.

What was once a gunpowder company on the Brandywine Creek hit the big leagues in the early decades of 20th century after three du Pont cousins took over the 100-year-old family business in 1902 and transformed it into a global powerhouse. Almost overnight it gave Delaware a unique identity and worldwide bragging rights.

David Weir, a former DuPont vice president for global research and development and currently director of the University of Delaware's Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, said he knew about DuPont growing up in Scotland.

“DuPont defined the state,” said Delaware historian Susan Mulchahey Chase. “Economically it was very powerful in the country and the company changed American life with its products.”

One of its most significant first acts of the cousins was the decision to stay in Delaware and not move to New York City or Philadelphia. Downtown Wilmington was transformed from an industrial-based economy to office economy with the construction of the DuPont Building, which opened in 1907.

To accommodate visitors, the company built a first-class hotel. As a cultural amenity, it opened a playhouse to host shows on the Broadway circuit. Next, it led a behind-the-scenes creation of Rodney Square, one of the earliest attempts at the planning of public space, according to a 1981 survey of Wilmington's city halls by the planning department.

When there was a housing shortage in New Castle County as the company went through an historic growth spurt during World War I, DuPont turned homebuilder. While Wawaset Park at the intersection of Greenhill and Pennsylvania was in Wilmington, it was the beginning of the major influence DuPont would have on suburban development in Northern Delaware.

By 1918, an advertisement billed Wilmington as “the wealthiest city per capita in America,” according to Carol E. Hoffecker in her book “Corporate Capital: Wilmington in the 20th century.” One newspaper article referred to it as the “Magic City.”

The growth didn’t stop. With the invention during the Great Depression of the blockbuster product, nylon, the first completely man-made fiber, DuPont was shot into the stratosphere. In 1939, DuPont opened the first nylon plant in Seaford, bringing significant job and economic growth to Sussex County.

Following World War II, DuPont launched a major expansion – adding 10,000 new jobs in five years. The suburbs around Wilmington blossomed with new housing developments targeted to the influx of young professionals. The Experimental Station also underwent a dramatic expansion with 19 new buildings.

That new crop of employees made their impact felt in Delaware, serving on school boards and charitable organizations. Employees also lent their time to economic development efforts, civic associations and politics.

One former DuPonter, Russell W. Peterson, became governor. Another, Daniel S. Frawley, became Wilmington mayor.

DuPont was a key player in building the University of Delaware over the years, including helping in the creation of the Delaware Technology Park and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. Not only did the company lend talent to the organizations, but retired DuPonters became leaders of the technology efforts.

“The history of DuPont and the history of the University of Delaware are inextricably linked,” said former UD President Patrick Harker in 2012.

Others who left the company started businesses that led to significant economic growth for the area, including W.L. Gore & Associates, founded by former DuPonter Wilbert “Bill” L. Gore. More recently, former DuPonters helped build Incyte Corp., a drug discovery company that is a bright light in the state’s economic picture.

Paul A. Friedman, the scientist and physician who led Incyte from 2001 to 2014, had been president of DuPont Pharmaceuticals Research Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co. Friedman was joined at Incyte by nearly 30 other DuPont Pharma scientists. Many were part of a DuPont team that developed Sustiva, a successful drug used in the treatment of HIV.

Because of the influence of the du Pont family members, who led the company for most of the 20th century, the family's values permeated the state. The corporate culture prized thoroughness, excellence, intellectual achievement, scientific discovery and innovation. Since DuPonters served on school boards and PTAs, these ideals trickled down to the school systems.

There was also a conservative element that put great store in patience, perseverance and loyalty.

“It’s in the genes of the du Pont family to be conservative and look at the long-term,” Copeland said. “I feel so sad that something that is part of my life and made me what I am is gone forever.”

People were proud to say they worked for DuPont.

CHAPTER 3: The turning point

Even the abrupt announcement of Kullman’s departure seemed uncharacteristic of DuPont, say long-time observers.

Kullman’s siblings were not told of the impending announcement until shortly before it became public, said her brother Brien Jamison. Kullman called her siblings to tell them she was stepping down and it would be hitting the news later in the day.

“We had no idea,” Jamison said. “I can tell you whatever decision she made she made for the DuPont company. She was worried more about the company and where it was headed than what the stock price was doing. She always told me she had a plan and she didn’t get to finish her plan.”

Sen. Tom Carper said he was baffled at Kullman’s exit after she fought so valiantly for the company in the proxy fight.

“I think she was heroic. To see this reward is troubling,” Carper said. “I don’t get it.”

George said believes Kullman behaved heroically in resigning.

"Unless you have weathered a proxy fight personally, it is hard to overestimate just how much time and effort it takes from the CEO and how distracting it is for the business itself. Ellen Kullman did an exceptional job in fending off Trian, and this will be an important part of her legacy," George said.

He said he believes Kullman felt she was a "lightning rod for criticism of DuPont’s recent results and decided to step down to relieve the pressure on the company"

"This is so typical of Ellen – always putting DuPont ahead of her own interests,” he said.

Sonnenfeld said after he referred to Kullman as “Joan of Arc” during the proxy contest, Kullman contacted him and said:

“ 'You know what happened to Joan of Arc?' ” Sonnefeld recalls Kullman asking him. “ 'She was burned at the stake.' ”

Going forward, Carper said the state and Congressional delegation wants to do everything it can to preserve Delaware jobs.

“We need to continue to focus on what we can do to make this a great place to do business,” Carper said.

But the task could be difficult, former executive and observers said. What would be most devastating to the company would be to gut central research and development and spin off business. The way Sonnenfeld sees it, the board has inflicted more damage on the company than any global competitor could have.

The current tough quarter DuPont experienced is a result of global forces beyond Kullman’s control, George and Sonnenfeld said – turmoil in the Chinese economy and the increased value of the dollar, making some company products more expensive abroad, dampening exports.

“Economic growth in China is way down and all companies are reflecting this in sales below expectations,” George said.

But Sonnenfeld said there are many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies "with far more prolonged and problematic exposures to the ripple effect of China’s economic slowdown that have not be treated so badly” as Kullman was.

“A board at a dot-com start up wouldn’t do this,” he said.

It would be "a colossal mistake" for DuPont to now begin spinning off businesses, he added.

Weir said DuPont has reinvented itself so many times in 213 years, going from a gunpowder company to chemicals to materials to life sciences, it’s easy to believe the company could do it again.

But most in the extended DuPont community in Delaware said this time it feels different.

“This could be this is the end of the road,” Weir said.

This article was originally posted 10/9/15 on

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.”