True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership / Edition 1

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True North shows how anyone who follows their internal compass can become an authentic leader. This leadership tour de force is based on research and first-person interviews with 125 of today’s top leaders—with some surprising results. In this important book, acclaimed former Medtronic CEO Bill George and coauthor Peter Sims share the wisdom of these outstanding leaders and describe how you can develop as an authentic leader. True North presents a concrete and comprehensive program for leadership success and shows how to create your own Personal Leadership Development Plan centered on five key areas:
  • Knowing your authentic self
  • Defining your values and leadership principles
  • Understanding your motivations
  • Building your support team
  • Staying grounded by integrating all aspects of your life

True North offers an opportunity for anyone to transform their leadership path and become the authentic leader they were born to be.

Personal, original, and illuminating stories from Warren Bennis, Sir Adrian Cadbury, George Shultz (former U.S. secretary of state), Charles Schwab, John Whitehead (Cochairman, Goldman Sachs), Anne Mulcahy (CEO, Xerox), Howard Schultz (CEO, Starbucks), Dan Vasella (CEO, Novartis), John Brennan (Chairman, Vanguard), Carol Tome (CFO, Home Depot), Donna Dubinsky (CEO/cofounder, Palm), Alan Horn (President, Warner Brothers), Ann Moore (CEO, Time, Inc.) and many others illustrate the transitions that shape the type of leaders who will thrive in the 21st century.

Bill George (Cambridge, MA) has spent over 30 years in executive leadership positions at Litton, Honeywell, and Medtronic. As CEO of Medtronic, he built the company into the world’s leading medical technology company as its market capitalization increased from $1.1 billion to $60 billion. Since 2004, he has been a professor at the Harvard Business School. His 2004 book Authentic Leadership (0-7879-7528-1) was a BusinessWeek bestseller. Peter Sims (San Francisco, CA) established “Leadership Perspectives,” a course on leadership development at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and cofounded the London office of Summit Partners, a leading investment firm.

Their Web site is

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
When top executives sit down to write a book, the result is often a celebratory memoir or an upbeat treatise on how you can emulate their success. Bill George has chosen to produce neither, and readers are the luckier for it. Instead, the former Medtronic CEO and current Harvard Business School professor has teamed up with co-author Peter Sims to offer a practical, inspiring examination of the executive experience, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. While the volume is a sequel to George's 2003 best-seller, Authentic Leadership, it easily stands alone as a guide to locating what the authors call "the internal compass that guides you successfully through life."
At the heart of True North is a series of interviews with 125 managers, from Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella to Palm co-founder Donna Dubinsky. George and Sims indulge in a few anecdotes that flatter their subjects. But they also get interviewees to talk about failures, emotional challenges, personal tragedies, regrets—in short, life events that knocked them off typical career paths. Taken together, the stories illustrate True North's thesis: that there is no single way to become an ideal leader. The volume is both memorable and perceptive.
True North has three parts. The first is an anecdote-rich section that describes what it means to be an "authentic leader" and examines how various people arrived at this status or lost their way. There's Kevin Sharer, who abandoned General Electric for MCI, only to find that he was miserable and that Jack Welch wouldn't take him back. ("Hey, Kevin, forget you ever worked here," Welch told him.) Sharer learned patience and humility and went on to become chairman of Amgen. The key experience for Novartis' Vasella, in contrast, came from childhood: He endured years of illness and learned the value of compassion in health care.
The book's second section, which focuses on the five key facets of a leadership plan, is its most useful. First comes "knowing your authentic self," i.e., learning to be self-aware. This proved difficult for David Pottruck, a former CEO of Charles Schwab who found that his long workdays and aggressiveness made colleagues resent and distrust him. His answer, on the job and in his third marriage, was to force himself to seek feedback on a regular basis. Next, after you attain a measure of self-awareness, you should focus on the values and principles that matter to you. David Gergen and Jon Huntsman, both of whom served in the Nixon White House and experienced the Watergate scandal up close, had to learn to draw ethical lines. Huntsman recalls that "an amoral atmosphere permeated the White House." The growing realization, highlighted by a request to entrap a politician, prompted him to leave.
A third step in the construction of a leadership plan is discovering what motivates you. The most successful leaders, the authors learn, rarely start out wanting to get rich. They are inspired to make a difference, to test their limits, to follow a passion. In many cases, they abandon secure posts for the unknown. Fourth in the authors' scheme is building a support team. Here, we read that many in Silicon Valley, including Palm's Dubinsky, were aided by Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell, whom George calls the "dean of mentoring." Howard Shultz of Starbucks found inspiration in management guru Warren Bennis. Finally, you should try to forge what George and Sims call "an integrated life" that augments work with such things as family, friends, community service, exercise, church, and whatever else matters in your life.
True North's last section deals with empowering the people around you. The authors ask leaders—including many women (more than in any other part of the book)—to talk about the higher calling of their work. Avon Products' Andrea Jung explains that "what we do is elevate women in the community," while Anne Mulcahy of Xerox talks about trying to motivate personnel as the company struggled to stave off bankruptcy. As elsewhere in the book, this is no victory lap. At one point, Mulcahy recounts pulling over on a highway after a tough day, saying to herself: "I don't know where to go. I don't want to go home. There's just no place to go."
Most readers will relate to at least some of the subjects' struggles, whether they involve watching a sibling die or fighting to keep ego from getting in the way of results. These people come across as fallible, emotional, and, yes, authentic. A series of exercises at the end of each chapter may help readers evaluate their priorities and practices. While True North offers no simple answers, it provides plenty of fodder to help readers figure out for themselves how to become a leader. (Business Week, March 12, 2007)

"Now comes a truly worthwhile look at leadership...this is one of the most important books on leadership in years." (International Herald Tribune, April 2007)

Diane Brady
A practical, inspiring examination of the executive experience .... both memorable and perceptive .... provides plenty of fodder to help readers figure out for themselves how to become a leader.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787987510
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/23/2007
  • Series: J-B Warren Bennis Series, #143
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 53,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill George is professor of management practice 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, Target, and Novartis. 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 one of Public Broadcasting’s Top 25 Leaders of the Past 25 Years.

Peter Sims established “Leadership Perspectives,” a class on leadership development at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and cofounded the London office of Summit Partners, a leading investment firm.  He was also part of the Deloitte Touche Tomatsu Global Strategy Team and has contributed to numerous publications including the Harvard Business Review.

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Table of Contents


The Authors.

Editor's Note (Warren Bennis).

Foreword (David Gergen).

Introduction: True North.

Part One: Leadership Is a Journey.

1. The Journey to Authentic Leadership.

2. Why Leaders Lose Their Way.

3. Transformation From “I” to "We."

Part Two: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.

4. Knowing Your Authentic Self.

5. Practicing Your Values and Principles.

6. What Motivates You to Be a Leader?

7. Building Your Support Team.

8. Staying Grounded: Integrating Your Life.

Part Three: Empowering People to Lead.

9. Leadership with Purpose and Passion.

10. Empowering People to Lead.

11. Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness.

Epilogue: The Fulfillment of Leadership.


A Research Study on Development of Authentic Leaders.

B Authentic Leaders Interviewed for True North.

C Leadership Exercises for Each Chapter.



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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 11, 2009

    True North Book Review

    This book is one listed in the Warren Bennis Signature Series, and although I have yet to read its predecessor "Authentic Leadership" Warren Bennis states in his endorsement of "True North" that "True North offers a practical five-part program for developing their best selves and shows how authenticity and integrity shape great leadership. "True North" it would seem then builds on the principals set forth in "Authentic Leadership" , and reveals just how powerful authentic leadership can be - and best of all , how to achieve it..
    Discovering your true north, that internal compass that guides you successfully through life, is neither an easy nor a fast thing to be accomplished, and this book teaches that doing so takes a lifetime of commitment and learning.
    Bill George states "Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership. When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you. Although others may guide or influence you, your true north is derived from your life story and only you can determine what it should be."
    Being in the economic crisis that we are in today the principles of this book are both timely and timeless. There is a leadership crisis that is quite evident today. George hits the nail squarely on the head and drives the point home when he appropriately states "There is a leadership crisis today and the problem rests with the wrongheaded notion of what constitutes a leader, driven by obsession with the leaders at the top. In too many organizations people don't feel empowered to lead - nor are they rewarded for doing so." Granted mentorship is talk of much in organizations, but little is actually done about it if any.
    The leadership crisis of today with places like GM, Chrysler, Enron, AIG, and others, seems self evident that the leaders were frequently chosen for their charisma instead of their character, their style rather than their substance, and their image instead of their integrity. When a thing like that happens, is it any wonder that problems are coming and a crisis will soon be faced? The obvious answer is no, and yet leaders that are wrongly chosen seem blindsided by their complete lack of authenticity and integrity. In my opinion George seems to say that it is time for leadership to wake up and smell the coffee. It is said, "Leader's lose their way and lose touch with reality when they focus on external gratification instead of internal satisfaction." External gratification such as huge bonuses when the company is in financial straits instead of the internal satisfaction of doing the right thing even though it may not be comfortable would seem to come into play here.
    In the world we live in, several people are putting on facades and living in a pretend world; they put on different faces and act differently where ever they are, and for whatever reason have problems with being authentic. These type of leaders have lost their way as this book explains one of the biggest reasons is they are not being true to their life's story. George says, "Successful leadership takes conscious development and requires being true to your life's story."
    George is right on target. Principle based leadership is not an option, it is an essential. This should be required reading for all leaders.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    Excellent treatise on ethical leadership

    Considering the intangible nature of leadership, those who read about it want to know that those who write about it are properly experienced and credentialed. Bill George certainly qualifies. He is a management professor at the Harvard Business School, a member of several corporate boards, and the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, the medical technology stalwart. George, and writer Peter Sims, the founder of an investment company, interviewed 125 leaders to discover what authentic, ethical leadership is all about, what its essence is and what it requires. This book represents the fruits of their enlightened, comprehensive research efforts. We recommend it to anyone who leads others. George and Sims see leadership as a quest, not a destination. This book is an excellent starting point for your journey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2007

    True North - Your Internal Compass

    Bill George is the former chairman and chief executive of Medtronic, Inc. and author of the best-selling book, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. Mr. George is in his fourth year at Harvard Business School where he is currently teaching Leadership and Corporate Accountability, a course that integrates ethics, law, and economics, and is a direct response to the corporate scandals that have plagued the country in recent years. This fall Mr. George is teaching Authentic Leadership Development, a course that parallels the structure and lessons in his latest book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, co-written with Peter Sims. According to Mr. George, True North answers the question raised by Authentic Leadership: How do I become an authentic leader? Unlike many leadership books [and I¿ve read my fair share], True North is more than simply a good read. The activities and exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to actually help you discover your leadership style and your underlying beliefs and passions: what makes you YOU. Mr. George believes that for leaders to be effective, they must first know themselves. He believes that you can¿t read a book about leadership to become a leader. You can¿t simply emulate other great leaders. You can¿t review a list of leadership traits or characteristics and simply select those you¿ll adopt. Bill George and Peter Sims interviewed 125 leaders to shape the chapters and lessons in this book. The authors asked leaders to define their True North ¿ what is most important to them, their most cherished values, their passions, their trials and tribulations ¿ and how they came to find their True North, their ¿fixed point in a spinning world that helps [them] stay on track as a leader.¿ Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes agrees that leaders need to discover their True North: If you are guided by an internal compass that represents your character and the values that guide your decisions, you¿re going to be fine. Let your values guide your actions and don¿t ever lose your internal compass, because everything isn¿t black or white. There are lots of gray areas in business. True North is not a ¿how-to/techniques¿ book in helping prospective leaders learn how to create meaningful mission statements or passionate visions, or how to lead teams through troubled waters. True North is an inward-looking book, one that helps you discover the leader within through thoughtful exercises and activities. True North is a book that will make good leaders great. Mr. George states about True North, ¿I want the book to change leadership.¿ If any book can accomplish such a lofty goal, True North can. The lessons from 125 business leaders help frame the activities that ¿ if completed ¿ will help YOU find your True North and discover your authentic leadership. If you want to increase your effectiveness as a leader, buy this book! Terence R. Traut is the president of Entelechy, Inc., a company that helps organizations unlock the potential of their people through customized training programs in the areas of sales, management, customer service, and training.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2007

    The Perfect Mix of Inspiration & Pragmatism.

    True North is the rallying point that will carry us into the next generation of much needed, positive, worthwhile, change. The importance of this is more prevalent today than ever. As a member of the Millenial generation I am not alone in being disillusioned by institutionalism. I used to believe that either my passion must die in order to fit into workplace norms or that I must be completely on my own (which would not be sustainable, nor preferable). After reading True North, I feel practically equipped to handle pressures in the workplace while nurturing my own passion, aligning my personal goals with those of my team's, and ultimately becoming value added to the institution as a whole. True North provides plenty of down-to-earth, raw, stories (and relevant exercises) to feed my growth and development for years to come. Take for example Novartis' Chairman Daniel Vasella overcoming tuberculosis, meningitis, the deaths of close loved ones. All of these very human experiences helped shape him into a great leader who brought the values of compassion and love to the workplace. Stories like this have helped me make sense of my own struggles. It's like having an inspirational and practical Harvard Business School course sitting on my bookshelf (for a fraction of the cost! :) - and yet this absolutely applies to more than just business... True North has been useful for the integration and encouragement of my personal, professional, social, philanthropic, and even spiritual outlook on life! I'm simply enthralled!

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