Bill George is worth listening to if you have an interest in building a trust culture, and growing your market cap. He should know. During his tenure as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of medical device firm Medtronic, (NYSE MDT) market cap increased from $1 billion to $60 billion. PBS named Bill George as one of the top 25 CEO’s over the past 25 years.
Mr. George is a bestselling author of two books, ‘Authentic Leadership‘ and ‘True North‘, is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, and writes about authentic leadership at his blog. He developed a leadership template that all leaders can follow, which is simply to be yourself, be authentic, and find your True North, that one thing you have been gifted to do to make a change in the world.
In this interview conducted by Wharton management professor Michael Useem, Mr. George outlines timeless and proven practices which helped him to succeed in leadership during his own career. These tips and truths about being authentic in leadership can serve you well as you develop lasting relationships and build value in your organization.
I’ve distilled this interview down to nine key points which provides a holistic template for outstanding authentic leadership.
1. Clean out the unethical behavior
This needs to be done swiftly, and so that others will notice. Everyone needs to understand that unethical behavior cannot be tolerated. Period. This of course needs to be modeled by you as a leader, and in turn you need to hold those in your company accountable to this basic standard of leadership.
2. Remove the Perks
If you are going to make a difference, you need to be serious and do some things that will not only be different in some places, but also help to define who you are. Begin doing some of these things immediately and you will get some attention and positive responses. Stop the company parking spots reserved for executives. Give the best view office over to the lunch or breakroom. Set up your desk in the factory, or close to it. This is not about you, it is about the organization, and treating all stakeholders with respect.
3. Preach the Mission and Vision. Live the Core Values
Travel to all operations and preach the mission and vision. Be collaborative when establishing your core values, but once you have them, don’t ever deviate from them. Stay focused on the mission, and drive hard for the vision. Give awards, celebrate victories.
4. Be Authentic
Authenticity is a reflection of how truthful and real we are in our relationships with others, and in understanding ourselves. Being authentic means you will be honest, vulnerable, real, and maybe a little intimate when sharing who you are as a person, or how you would like others to be when in relationship with you. At a deep level, most people want to be in authentic relationships.
Without authenticity, relationships will be slow to develop, if at all. And without authentic relationships, trust does not grow. Without trust, leaders will not have influence, and without influence, they will not build value throughout their organizations. A recent post describes a leader that did not build trust, did not have much influence, and as a result destroyed a great deal of market cap.
If you don’t feel you are being the authentic you, and don’t have a North Star yet. How can you develop that authenticity? Don’t lose sight on what you are called to do. Be yourself, and don’t try to imitate others. Say what is on your mind, with truth and grace operating at the same time. Respect the human element.
You need to come in as who you are. Be the real person you were made to be. Follow your true north. Don’t ‘emulate other great leaders. Jack Welch was unique, as is Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Immelt, and every other leader out there. Get away from the great man (or great woman) theory of leadership. Just be yourself.
5. Identify and Leverage your Crucibles
Crucibles are those events or seasons in one’s life that are challenging. We all have them, or soon will. First you need to accept yourself. Know yourself, have self awareness. Have compassion for your difficult times, but learn from them. Have Crucibles. Have difficult times. This is the marrow of life. It’s what is necessary before you can gain a high level of wisdom and leadership ability. Once you accept who you are, it is very freeing. You can’t be a leader until you deal with all of your issues, confront them, and deal with them. Helping other people walk through that process in a mentoring relationship is exciting.
6. Find your True North
What are you here to do? How can each of us make a difference in the world? You will get pulled off this, but your compass will guide you back. Review your own life story, spend time in meditation. What is the greatest crucible in your life, what are your beliefs?
Once those are firmly set in your mind, you can contemplate the purpose of your leadership. Ask yourself…What are the things I am most motivated by? Your intrinsic motivations. Not money, fame, power. You can identify and be aware of your weaknesses in this process, but please don’t spend a lifetime working on your weaknesses. Focus on what are your strengths.
7. Use your boards
Draw out those who are quiet. Those are board members that don’t say much but know a lot. Engage them. How does a CEO relate to the board? How does the Non-executive Chairman get the most out of their members. What is the strategic guidance? You just need to have the dialogue and get it right. Use the quiet ones on the board, get everyone engaged. You can’t do this with the whole management team in the room.
8. Learn to follow your passion
What would you tell young people? What are your passions, what excites you? How do you want to make a difference in the world? What will you or have you done to make a difference? You need to be true to what you believe. Follow your own passions. Did you use your greatest gifts that your creator gave you to solve problems, and make a difference in the world?
9. Have a mentor who can teach you, and have a student who can learn from you
Mr. George believes in seeking mentors who can help you think through the difficult choices you make as a leader. One of his own mentors was Warren Bennis, who shaped his thinking and behavior as a leader. He also believes your wisdom should be shared with others. He now teaches at Harvard Business School, sharing wisdom gained from his years as a successful leader.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your journey to building authentic relationships as you lead your organization.