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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Category: Press

5 Tips For Practicing Self-Care During COVID-19

As COVID-19 spreads across America and around the world, public health experts predict that a large % of us will be exposed to it. To enable yourself to heal, you must strengthen your immune system. Here are 5 ways of Self-Care that you can practice every day:

  1. Eat a healthy diet, lots of vegetables & fruits, limited meat.
  2. No smoking and limited alcohol consumption.
  3. Get 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night.
  4. Get an hour of exercise every day, outside if possible.
  5. Reduce your stress through mindfulness, meditation or prayer.

Podcast: Leading With Purpose With Nick Craig

I am honored to be the inaugural interview of my good friend Nick Craig’s new Podcast – “Leading From Purpose.” You can watch the video version here or listen to the audio version on Spotify here. We discuss the impact of Authentic Leadership in times of crisis – much like the world is facing today.



CNBC: Latest COVD-19 Appearances

Fred Hassan, chairman of the Caret Group, and Bill George, former Medtronic CEO, join “Squawk on the Street” to discuss the spread of coronavirus.

This content was originally posted on on 1/27/2020.

Bill George, former Medtronic CEO, joins “Squawk on the Street” to discuss the response to coronavirus and how the virus will hurt the economy.

This content was originally posted on 3/5/2020 on

The Next Great Recession Has Already Begun

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? Well, the next Great Recession began this past week, as the U.S. virtually shut down its economy to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

First, the NBA suspended its season, followed in rapid succession by the NHL, the MLS, the MLB, and most recently, the PGA’s cancellation of the 2020 Masters golf tournament. Then Broadway closed down, followed by cancellations at nearly all major venues. Businesses told their employees to work from home. In Minneapolis, the normally-packed Mall of America parking garages are virtually empty. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio just limited all restaurants, cafes, and bars, to takeout and delivery.

President Donald Trump’s Friday declaration of a national emergency seemed almost anti-climactic. Meanwhile, stock exchanges have been indicating a coming recession for two weeks, as stock prices have gyrated wildly, falling 20% until a partial recovery on the heels of the President’s announcement, according to analysis of data for the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Yahoo Finance. After the Federal Reserve’s emergency cut on Tuesday of 50 basis points, or half a percentage point, of interest rates failed to stem declining equity prices, the Fed followed with another cut on Sunday evening. This time it lowered rates to 0% (an additional 100 basis points), alongside pumping $700 billion of liquidity into the economy. In spite of those dramatic moves, the stock market plunged further on Monday as investors questioned whether further rate cuts will stimulate people to buy new homes or automobiles, or companies to increase their capital spending. Who would possibly be signing off on new capital investments right now?

Policy makers should accept the reality that the best way to make this a short, sharp recession is to focus entirely on stopping the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. federal government should ask Americans to voluntarily quarantine themselves in their homes until the peak infection period passes, as many states have already done. This would cause the spread of the disease to end faster and therefore allow a normal resumption of economic activity to occur sooner. This requires a containment strategy wherein most Americans, except essential workers, self-quarantine in their homes. Such a decision will result in major reductions in the U.S. consumer economy, except for online purchases and essential food and pharmaceuticals, but it may prove to be the fastest way to get through the recession.

The question now is how long this recession will last. In economists’ terms, will it be a V-shaped recession, an U-shaped recession, or an L-shaped recession? Let’s examine these possible scenarios.

V-shaped recession would indicate a sharp downturn for the next several months, followed by rapid growth in early 2021. In this case, the economy would follow a pattern similar to the early 1950s, when the American economy dipped down for 12 months, followed by 12 months of recovery. If the U.S. gets coronavirus under control through swift containment measures, then that offers the greatest probability of a V-shaped economic rebound in 2021.

The Great Recession that started in 2008 followed an L-shape as it took nearly four years for recovery to pre-2008 levels. Drawing out the response to COVID-19 may simply increase the odds that the U.S. plunges into the much more severe L-shaped recession, which lasts a long time with only mediocre growth on the rebound.

Rather than trying to avoid a recession by keeping things running in a pseudo-normal manner and thereby accelerating the spread of coronavirus, the Trump administration should take the bitter medicine now of pushing for self-quarantines. In doing so, it may save the health of the American people and the American economy.

This content was originally published on on 3/16/20.

US President Faces A Triple Threat of Leadership Crises

President Donald Trump and his administration now face three major crises occurring simultaneously. First, there’s the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., with over 1,000 cases and 38 deaths reported. Then there’s the oil price war that’s led to a drop in crude oil prices (down to $31.13 per barrel). And finally, there’s the growing threat of a global economic recession, as reflected in the stock market’s decline of 2,013 points on Monday.

It is relatively easy for leaders to look good when things go well but managing a crisis is the real test of leadership. In fairness to the President, none of these crises is of his making. That is the usual nature of crises—they occur when least expected.

How should President Trump handle the triple threat of these crises? There are six rules for leading in a crisis that every leader, including President Trump, should consider:

1. Acknowledge the reality of the situation. Acknowledging the severity of the coronavirus has been difficult for the President, particularly considering the threat coronavirus represents to the economy and hence his reelection. Initially, Trump consistently tried to downplay the crisis. In the midst of Monday’s stock market meltdown, for instance, the President tweeted: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

The President should face these realities: Now that the World Health Organization has declared coronavirus a global pandemic, every American is at risk; the rapid increases in U.S. oil and shale gas production are contributing to the global glut and driving down prices; and stock market declines are signaling a recession ahead.

The President should consider examining his approach and be more candid with the American people about the risks of the disease and its potential to spread. By understating the risks, he makes it more difficult for his administration to respond to the rapid growth of the virus and denying the severity of the issue will reduce his credibility in the future.

2. Be truthful and transparent. During a crisis people depend upon their leaders to speak the truth and to be fully transparent; if they do not do so, trust evaporates quickly. A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that American’s public trust in federal governments has been in decline, with 68% believing that “it is very important to repair the public’s level of confidence in the federal government.”

To date, the President has not been forthcoming about the risks of the disease spreading, describing it as “very mild” in an interview with Sean Hannity, and even saying people with the disease could go back to work.

3. Lead from the front. As a leader, President Trump is highly visible, an operating style that can serve him well in this time of crisis. Since the outbreak of coronavirus, he has visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and participated in the White House press briefings. This week, he is actively trying to devise solutions to lessen the economic impact on the country and individuals, meeting with members of Congress. But these steps may not be sufficient to stem the crisis, as more aggressive actions inevitably will be required.

Since the oil price war resulted from issues between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—two leaders with whom the President has built strong relationships—he should broker a deal that restores oil prices to a normalized level. This will not only help both countries but will keep the U.S. oil and gas industry from massive cutbacks and bankruptcies.

4. Use your team. The President appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the coronavirus response task force, and provide daily communications, supported by leading scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The candor of Dr. Fauci and other scientists in daily briefings is building confidence that our U.S. health care leaders are doing their best to minimize the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

5. Make hard decisions. President Trump’s most difficult decisions lie ahead. In January, he banned foreign tourists who had recently visited China, and quarantined some Americans, likely slowing the initiation of the virus in the U.S., but since then he has been reluctant to acknowledge the full extent of the coronavirus threat. The tough decisions facing the President now will inevitably involve tradeoffs between protecting people from exposure to coronavirus and the economic impact that will occur as a result. For the sake of the country, he should focus on protecting people and accept the short-term economic hit; in the end the economy will recover faster if the crisis is mitigated.

6. Get ready for the long haul. The U.S. needs a comprehensive plan to keep the economy moving; otherwise, a stock market decline could turn into a full-fledged recession. The measures contemplated like paid sick leave and payroll tax reductions are good initial steps, but short term in nature. Now the President needs to address the significant economic impact if coronavirus becomes a global pandemic and create a stimulus plan to restore economic growth. One place to start is to fund a major infrastructure program to repair America’s crumbling roads and bridges, a similar step to what President Barack Obama did in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis.

President Trump’s most difficult challenges will come as the coronavirus expands, requiring even more protective measures that inevitably will slow down the economy. The collapse of oil prices will intensify the economic challenges facing the oil industry. The decline of the stock market will cause both consumers and businesses to hold back on spending on large purchases. Only visionary, aggressive leadership by the President will keep these three crises from plunging the U.S.—along with the rest of the world— into another crippling recession.

Bill George is senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former chair and CEO of Medtronic. He is also author of the book, Discover Your True North.

This content was originally published on on 3/12/20.

Georgia Tech’s President Newsletter: February 26, 2020

The new George Tower will be named in honor of donors William W. “Bill” George, IE 1964, Hon. Ph.D. 2008, and his wife Penny George. It will be the new home for the No. 1-ranked
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, among other programs.

Dear Georgia Tech Friends and Supporters:

One of the unique qualities that sets Georgia Tech apart is the generational connection that our alumni have with current students. Leading the way is the Alumni Association, which not only offers a host of services for its members but also sponsors very important programs for students such as the Student Alumni Association, Student Ambassadors, Mentor Jackets, and the Student Foundation.

That strong connection between alumni and students was most visible at the annual Gold and White Honors Gala on Feb. 13, where 500 alumni and friends gathered with students, faculty, and staff to honor six outstanding alumni and to name two honorary alumni who have made a difference in their communities and have represented Georgia Tech with excellence. The gala highlighted the achievements of our alumni and the potential of our students, strengthened the ties among the them, and helped raise more than $400,000 to support those important student programs.

The commitment of our alumni to our students and the future of Georgia Tech also became apparent, in a big way, with the Feb. 11 announcement of an eight-figure commitment that will help build the second tower of the Tech Square Phase III development. The new George Tower will be named in honor of donors William W. “Bill” George, IE 1964, Hon. Ph.D. 2008, and his wife Penny George. It will be the new home for the No. 1-ranked H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, as well as other programs, and will complement the Scheller Tower, which will house Scheller College of Business graduate and executive education programs. Both towers are expected to open by the end of 2022. The Scheller and George towers will honor two exemplary alumni who have been extraordinarily successful in their careers and immensely generous with their alma mater.

Bill George has taught leadership at Harvard Business School since 2004. He’s a prolific management scholar and has written extensively on the power of authentic, values-based leadership. His books and his teachings, which have influenced the way I think about my own leadership journey, draw from a remarkable business career that has culminated with a decade at the helm of a medical technology giant, Medtronic, and his service on the boards of iconic companies like Goldman Sachs and Novartis.

Penny George is a renowned psychologist, the head of the couple’s family foundation, and a national advocate of integrative medicine. I first met the Georges at the World Economic Forum years ago. I was taught leadership by Bill at Harvard, and was then delighted to work with him for several years on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board. The Georges are longtime supporters of Georgia Tech. Their legacy of support can be seen and felt in the experiences of our students who benefit from various scholarships and fellowships, and through the work of our faculty.

As I often remind our students, Georgia Tech would simply not be what it is today without the support of our alumni.


Ángel Cabrera
President, Georgia Institute of Technology

Star Tribune: Ranked Choice In The Presidential Primary? Not This Time, Obviously, But Next Time, Please

Opinion editor’s note: This article was submitted on behalf of several Minnesotans who are active in state and national politics. They are listed below.

A lot of attention is being given to our outmoded presidential caucus system and the exaggerated influence that small unrepresentative states have on the winnowing process. The biggest shortcoming of the presidential primary process, however, is the winner-take-all system that leaves us with front-runners who represent just a small fraction of voters. How can any candidate be considered a winner with 26% of the vote?

Our current nominating process is designed as a series of cutthroat contests that polarize supporters and discourage consensus-building. This process heightens divisions and we fear will leave us with a nominee who does not reflect the will of the majority of the people.

These are polarizing times in America, and recent events like the impeachment trial have made it clear that there is no end in sight to the growing partisanship that is putting our democracy at risk. Voters know our system isn’t working and want to break out of this political game of Ping-Pong.

Ranked-choice voting is the way forward and we propose that all states adopt it for presidential primaries. Those states still using outdated caucuses should move to primaries and make voting accessible to all voters who wish to participate.

The Democratic presidential primary rules require candidates to receive at least 15% support in each state in order to receive delegates to the nominating convention in June. The higher the share of votes they get, the more delegates they will have going into the convention.

In a highly fractured primary field like the one we have now, there’s no way to know under the current system who most American voters support. Ranked-choice voting (RCV) would allow voters to rank their preferences rather than vote for just a single choice. If their first choice doesn’t make it through, their second choice counts.

RCV eliminates vote-splitting and spoiler dynamics, incentivizes candidates to appeal beyond their base for second-choice votes, discourages harmful attacks against one another and allows the ultimate nominee to build a broad base of support among a majority (50% + 1) of voters.

RCV is not a new or radical idea. It is used in major democracies across the world and in municipal elections across the country. New York City will begin using it next year. Maine uses it for state and federal elections and — starting this year — in the presidential race as well. A handful of states will use RCV for presidential primaries. Massachusetts and Alaska look poised to pass RCV for state elections this year. It is thriving in Minneapolis and St. Paul and was used in St. Louis Park for the first time last year.

Minnesota has an enviable tradition of good governance, government reform, fairness and innovation. When we see that our political structures aren’t working, we change them. While we can’t use ranked-choice voting for our presidential primary on March 3, we urge the Minnesota Legislature to make sure it’s in place for the next primary in 2024 and to enact RCV for all elections, up and down the ballot in Minnesota.

The authors of this article are U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, Penny and Bill George, Tom Horner, Peter Hutchinson and Karla Ekdahl.

This article was originally posted on on 2/21/2020.