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Authentic Leadership - Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value





Book: 'Authentic Leadership - Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value'

Author: Bill George

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2003

ISBN: 0-7879-7528-1

Leader Values

Nearly forty years ago, Bob Dylan sang protest songs advising us Don't follow leaders. Unfortunately, we hardly need that advice today. Public scandals have tarnished the image of many high profile business leaders, and most people now believe that CEOs are less honest than the average person. Bill George amusingly sums up this situation by adapting another pop song to ask, Where have all the leaders gone?.

This is not just another book about leadership; Authentic Leadership stands out from the crowd. Bill George is not writing about the theory of leadership, or about leaders he has observed. He is writing about leadership that he has learned, practiced and excelled in. And he is not writing to flatter his own ego; he is writing to inspire higher ethical standards among leaders.

Bill is widely admired for his outstanding leadership as Chairman and CEO of Medtronic. Under his guidance, Medtronic grew its earnings per share by a factor of seven and became legendary for its integrity-based corporate culture. Despite these achievements, Bill writes with disarming modesty. I have struggled in getting comfortable with my weaknesses my tendency to intimidate others, my impatience, and my occasional lack of tact. How many successful CEOs write about their weaknesses as openly as this? Bill also talks about specific failures in his career, and what he learned from them.

His views of leadership are just as unconventional. Almost every book on leadership describes the different styles of leadership, and tells us when each is appropriate. Bill takes a totally different stance, asserting that leadership style is not what matters. While he does talk about the Seven Deadly Sins that can hold back a companys growth, he doesnt list the seven simple actions that can make you into a great leader. Instead, he calls for a return to authentic leadership. That requires leaders who lead with purpose, values and integrity and who are good stewards of the legacy they have inherited from their predecessors.

Authentic Leadership also argues against companies that focus primarily on keeping their stock price up. That strategy often leads to short term solutions and setting low and easily achievable financial targets. The final outcome will probably be dissatisfied customers, loss of market share, poor financial performance and unhappy investors. Bill boldly asserts that Shareholders come third. He puts customers in first place, and employees second. But as he explains, Companies that put their customers first and empower their employees to serve them will inevitably provide greater growth in shareholder value. Paradoxically, placing your investors in third place is actually the best way to meet their needs.

Bills wake up call to leaders is illustrated with examples from his own experience at Medtronic, plus many from other good and not-so-good companies. He gives clear and practical advice on dealing with ethical dilemmas, such as slush funds or product flaws. Despite country-to-country differences in standards, Bill advocates the adoption of a common worldwide ethical standard. With the growth of globalization, he believes that companies can only gain from having a clean reputation. This is a manifesto for values-based leadership. Essential reading for all current and future leaders.

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