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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

PBS Nightly Business Report Commentary #1: The Need for Authentic True North Leaders

Bill George is a commentator and contributor to PBS Nightly Business Review. This blog entry is a copy of his first commentary which aired on June 28.

For the past five years we’ve been facing a crisis in corporate leadership. The Gallup poll says only 22 percent of the American people trust their leaders. That’s not just a problem, that’s a formula for disaster, because our entire system of capitalism is built on trust.

Many leaders have breeched the trust given them when they were chosen to lead our great companies. It turns out these leaders are primarily interested in taking as much as they can out of the company – money, fame, power and glory. Instead of takers, we need givers whose goal is to serve all their constituencies: their customers, employees, and shareholders.

All too often boards of directors choose the wrong leaders to run our corporations. They select them more for their charisma than their character, for their style rather than their substance, and for their image rather than their integrity. Well, if we choose people for charisma, why are we surprised when we don’t get character?

Boards need to stop searching for corporate saviors from outside the company, and get back to developing leaders within their companies – leaders that have the character, substance, and integrity to build companies for the long term. We need authentic leaders who can empower people throughout the organization to step up and lead, and who are committed to serving all their constituencies.Only when we have authentic leaders will we be able to regain the trust of the American people, as well as the trust of customers, employees, and shareholders – and only then can companies create long-term, sustainable value.