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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Churchmag: “Discover Your True North” by Bill George [Saturday Morning Review]

This article was originally posted on 11/14/15 on Churchmag.

When True North came out in 2007, it became an instant classic on authentic leadership in business literature. Discover your True North is the updated version of that book that was just released. It’s still one of the best books on ethical and effective leadership available.

The term ‘true north’ refers to your inner compass of course, to the magnetic pole of your authentic leadership, which will help you become a successful leader. It’s a principle that’s easy to grasp but a lot harder to put into practice. True north is also something many leaders are missing, even in the church or in Christian organizations—as evidenced by sad tales of fraud, overspending, moral failures, and more.

Author Bill George wants to convince readers that sticking to your true north, to the values and the sweet spot that define you, is the only way to real, long-term success. And he makes a convincing case. History has shown us time and again that operating in a way that contradicts our real values, or that doesn’t fit our personality and is outside our sweet spot, leads to suboptimal leadership at best—and big failure at worst. (Enron, anyone?)

Discover Your True North

This book shows you how to find and define your true north, and how to let it guide you in your leadership. Discover Your True North is chock full with stories from real-life leaders, both successful ones and big mistakes (though the latter are definitely in the minority). And these are crucial in making the theoretical concept of authentic leadership so practical. Time and again, Bill George shows how leaders have let their true north dictate their decisions, and with success.

Yes, this is not a explicit Christian book, nor is it aimed specifically at Christian leaders. The cases are all from the business world (with the notable exception of Nelson Mandela) and include household names like Arianna Huffington, Warren Buffett, and Howard Schultz.

That being said, Christian leaders can learn tons from this book on developing an authentic leadership style that matches Christian values. The chapter on leading an integrated life especially has many applications for (youth) pastors and Christian leaders.

Of course, those still trying to find their sweet spot and true moment will benefit most from this book, though for them it may necessary to reread it a few times over times to let it all sink in.