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Phil's Books blog

Phil’s Picks for July: Break out of the metaphors

A couple of leaders I work with and respect (thank you Lincoln Barrett and Joerg Boeckler) sing the praises of this book.

I had a quick look at an interview with the author, Liz Wiseman, that John Mattone’s team did. And bought the book, based on Wiseman’s explanation of how leaders are either ‘multipliers’ or ‘diminishers’ in their impact on others.

No surprise there, but there’s real learning in how she explains that we can go around thinking we are multipliers when we are actually unintentional diminishers.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

'Multipliers' Book Cover

I loved Essentialism, and Greg McKeown, author of that, is involved with this book, too.

What particularly appeals to me about Liz Wiseman’s thinking is that it focuses on unintended consequences. Most leaders, in my experience, haven’t yet got to grips with complexity (though they think they have) and still see a clear ’cause and effect’ mechanism in place with themselves, usually, being ‘the cause’.

‘Make it so’ is a myth

This ‘make it so’ assumption in leadership (Jean Luc Picard, the captain in the later incarnations of Start Trek, remember?) is a fallacy and always has been.

But, the need to show that ‘yes, indeed we made it so due to you, dear leader, telling us to’ is so strong in most corporate cultures that it generates a kind of mythical story about what is happening, which runs alongside reality and slightly separate from it.

Until reality wins.

Think ‘acts of leadership’ not ‘leader’

Leadership is in acts that people do within complex large systems. Those acts of leadership emerge and are directed by and within a web of common purpose. Leadership does not sit in a person ‘at the top’ of the organization, making decisions, which the rest of the organization enacts.

Even ‘the top’ is a mental construct. There is no ‘top’. There is no physical height.

When Stephen Covey said “The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, looks around and shouts down ‘wrong jungle'”, he wasn’t making a literal height-based point; the top of the tree equating to the top of the organization.

Our minds are so full of metaphors and constructs about how organizations work – pyramids, top of the organization, front line, middle managers – based on imposing physical shape – verticality in particular – on something that doesn’t have a physical entity, that we start to act and think in those metaphorical terms.

Break out of the metaphors and be real!

Wiseman’s book helps us break out of this tired (but persistent: take away the ‘vertical’ model of thinking and people get scared and want their ladder-like framework back) old view of structure – where the analogy becomes ‘real’ in our heads, with bosses somehow at ‘the top’ of something.

Another thing I spotted this month

Well, actually, it was the tail end of June, but it had its impact on me this month.

Words of wisdom on leadership from Queen Elizabeth II, aged 90, who said this last week: Phil'sBlogQueen

“One hallmark of leadership in a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet thinking and contemplation, which can enable deeper, cooler consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.”

Wow; smart woman our Queen :) . The faster markets move, and the more overwhelmed with ‘incoming’ information we are, the more we are tempted to respond with ever-faster decision-making.

Obviously that’s appropriate sometimes to avoid missing a fast-moving opportunity or to sidestep a fast-moving market threat.

But, we are in danger of losing the discipline of taking time to think properly, and making fast knee-jerk decisions to clear the modern equivalent of our in-tray.

“You call it procrastinating.
I call it thinking,”
– Aaron Sorkin

A Book Distillery: Whole leadership books in 5 min animations

From 30SecondsMail (who have undercut me by 30 seconds, but I don’t care as it’s a great idea).

We recently launched our “Book Distillery”: We create super short and crisp 5 minute animated video abstracts of famous business books. There’s no easier and funnier way to digest a whole book in such a short time. And it’s 100% free (and always will be) :) We thought maybe your readers would like to know about it.

There will be one new “video-book” every week.

Here is our first video “Zero to One – by Peter Thiel

Coming up: The Lean Startup, the 4-hour work week and many many more. – Ajie


Check out Aije’s site by clicking here, or try a video by clicking the picture.

Innovation: Starting second can end up first

Who beat Amazon?

Which company created on-line bookselling in the 1990s? Amazon.com? Nope. The first on-line bookstore was set up by an Ohio-based bookseller named Charles Stack in 1991. Jeff Bezos didn’t launch Amazon till four years later.

We’re constantly being told that leaders need to foster a culture of innovation, to move into Blue Ocean spaces where no competitors exist, then profit from the customers before our competitors copy us and move into the space we have created.

Henry Ford said ‘come second to market’

Well, not always. Henry Ford used to argue that it made more sense to be second to market – let someone else take the risks of seeing if something new is what customers will buy. Then, when the market is proven, often at great expense, follow in and do it better. That’s the core argument in this book, and the authors lines up plenty of examples to prove their point.

Fast Second: How smart companies bypass radical innovation to enter and dominate new markets

Fast Second: How smart companies bypass radical innovation to enter and dominate new markets

And they do have one. The argument against them is the first mover advantage argument – That markets move so fast nowadays you need to be first to market with something new so you can mop up the customers. That may be true if there’s only room for one dominant supplier, and if your aim is to be that dominant supplier – the Amazon of your marketplace, if you will. But there’s usually plenty of room for smaller niche players who take the main innovation, tweak it a bit and find a space in the market that way. It’s like ‘the long tail’ argument.

But, do markets move too fast today for ‘be second to market’ to work?

Tom Peters argues that markets move so fast that trying to be second to market means you will just be mopping up the leftovers as those who were brave enough to lead and create a new market take all the prizes. Well, sometimes, maybe. But, not always.

The uncomfortable answer is that sometimes being first to market is the winning strategy and sometimes being second or even third, when the pioneers have proved what works and what doesn’t and lost all their money in the process, is the right strategy.

It seems odd to say ‘Take the lead on being second or third’ but leadership doesn’t always mean being first to market. That’s my view, anyway (in synch with the authors of this book).

Balancing the risk: Being closer to customers increases the chances of success

Nobody can tell you which one works in your particular situation (a strategy of being first, second or third to market). But, the closer you are to knowing your customers’ or potential customers’ needs – to instinctively know what they want even before they know it themselves – the more likely your innovation is to be a winner.

And that, though it doesn’t explicitly say so in this book, is why leaders need to be as ‘close to the customer’ (thank you Tom Peters, even if it was 25 years ago he said it) as possible. That means interacting with customers whenever you can, not receiving reports from middle managers about the customer base, but immersing yourself in the customer base, no matter how lofty your role in the organization is.

End of preachy bit. Anyway, interesting book…

Little bit more about it here: Fast Second on Wikipedia

The Second Little Book of Leadership

…just published on Slideshare. Hope you find it useful.


Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

One of the reasons I like this book is that it is one of the few leadership books that recognizes that ‘leadership’ is not an ability or skill or collection of abilities or skills within some people – leaders. Leadership is a relationship between people. Others have to agree to be led.

And, at times, those others do the leading and you agree to be led.

I also like the lack of emphasis on ‘competencies’ and trait theory – that there are traits or competencies that are common to leaders – and the acknowledgement that leaders are often very different from each other – in fact have more apart than they have in common.

At a time when large organizations arae commonly trying to standardise leadership behaviour, this book is a refreshing reminder that it won’t allow itself to be. Because, again, leadership isn’t something inside a ‘leader’. It’s a relationship between people.

Here are the authors outlining the four qualities inspirational leaders share

“We’ve discovered that inspirational leaders … share four unexpected qualities:

  1. They selectively show their weaknesses. By exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.
  2. They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Their ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know just when and how to act.
  3. They manage employees with something we call tough empathy. Inspirational leaders empathize passionately—and realistically—with people, and they care intensely about the work employees do.
  4. They reveal their differences. They capitalize on what’s unique about themselves.

You may find yourself in a top position without these qualities, but few people will want to be led by you.

Our theory about the four essential qualities of leadership, it should be noted, is not about results per se. While many of the leaders we have studied and use as examples do in fact post superior financial returns, the focus of our research has been on leaders who excel at inspiring people—in capturing hearts, minds, and souls.

This ability is not everything in business, but any experienced leader will tell you it is worth quite a lot. Indeed, great results may be impossible without it.”

Little Bets, How breakthrough ideas come from small discoveries, by Peter Sims


“In this era of ever-accelerating change, being able to create, navigate amid uncertainty, and adapt using an experimental approach will increasingly be a vital advantage.

The way to begin is with little bets.” – Peter Sims

I love this book.

One sentence book summary: You innovate to keep changing and improving by a constant series of ‘little bets’ – affordable experimental changes or mini pilots – taken at all levels of the organization: if you are not trying at least one new thing or new approach at any one time, then you will stay the same; maybe you’re ‘good’ already so play safe most of the time, but since ‘good’ is no longer good enough, you may look like you’re succeeding, but you are actually slowly slipping behind. (Wow, what a long sentence…)

Why this is so important: Fundamental to the little bets approach is knowing that you will get something wrong, learn why and improve it. It’s because it’s new that you don’t know if it will work. And you ‘learn by doing’ – smart business leaders call this ‘failing forwards‘ – It looks like failure but it teaches you something you didn’t know and teaches you how ‘it’ will work, and you then fix it and find you now have something no competitor has. You created it.

One paragraph on why you will think this is wrong compared with the way you are used to working: NONE of us are comfortable with this approach as it ‘ups’ what looks like our failure rate. We all want to be in charge of the unit or department or organization that rarely gets anything ‘wrong’ – the safe pair of hands.

That old-fashioned view of what success looks like just means you will stay in safe territory where you know how to do what you are doing. So, you will not progress fast enough. As Picasso said, he was always trying new things that he didn’t know how to do, in order to learn how to do them. That’s the only way we move forward.

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that you:

1. Experiment: Learn by doing. Fail quickly to learn fast. Develop experiments and prototypes to gather insights, identify problems, and build up to creative ideas, like Beethoven did in order to discover new musical styles and forms.

2. Play: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmosphere quiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged.

3. Immerse: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up.

4. Define: Use insights gathered throughout the process to define specific problems and needs before solving them, just as the Google founders did when they realized that their library search algorithm could address a much larger problem.

5. Reorient: Be flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations, making good use of small wins to make necessary pivots and chart the course to completion.

6. Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on.

Great book. Busts the ‘innovation is only noticeable if it’s big innovation’ thinking and shows how to create a continuously innovating culture that improves – a continuous improvement ‘engine’ if you will.

More on Peter Sims’ website>>>

Peter Sims talks about the book on his website (I’m a link. Click on me).


How to Lead in 2012: Follow Happy Henry’s Recipe

Relax! A Happy Business Story

By Henry Stewart, Cathy Busani and James Moran

You can download a free pdf copy of this book on this link:


60-Second Main Learning Points

In this fictional tale, a highly stressed small business owner discovers a new way to run his company.


What would your organization be like if you completely trusted everybody? What would you have to do to get to that point?

Chapter 1: About Trust and Information

  • Without information, people cannot take responsibility – with information, people cannot avoid taking responsibility.
  • Agree principles that everyone can work within.
  • Train the staff to do the jobs you’re trusting them to do.
  • Trust them to do it.

Chapter 2: Celebrate Mistakes

  • Celebrate your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Imagine what it would be like to work somewhere where you never got blamed for your mistakes… where mistakes were seen as positive things, as outcomes of risk and innovation.
  • You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t make any mistakes – go make some.

Weekly Mistake meetings – people talk about the mistakes that they made and how they could do things differently. Admit when you, the boss, make a mistake.

Chapter 3: What to Judge Your People On

  • Look at how your people’s targets fit within the company principles and targets – get your people to see the big picture.
  • Judge your people on the results they achieve, not the number of hours they work.
  • Recognize when people have done good work, give your feedback personally and make it specific.

How are they going to know how much you appreciate them unless you tell them? Recognize when anyone does a good job and make sure they all know that you’re pleased with their work. By showing that you appreciate them you’ll increase their motivation and enthusiasm and consequently improve their morale.

Chapter 4: Listening is Different From Hearing

  • It’s not enough to hear, you have to really listen to people.
  • People say more than they actually “say”.
  • If someone is acting out of character, ask them what is really wrong – and how you can help.
  • Frame conversations to help people listen better.

Chapter 5: Believe the Best

Always believe the best of your staff. Believing the best should form the basis of every communication.

  • Believe the best of people.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Listen without judgement or assumption.
  • Ask how you can help them.

Chapter 6: Hire For Attitude Train for Skill

  • Hire people your existing staff will be happy working with.
  • Skills can be learnt, a good attitude is either there or not there.
  • If somebody is not happy in their current job, see if they can do something else better.
  • Set your staff up to succeed – exploit their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Chapter 8: Job Ownership and Full Involvement from Everyone

  • Create a framework which gives people ownership over their jobs.
  • Get everyone involved in the decisions that affect them.
  • If people are involved in decision, they will be more committed to making those decisions work.

Chapter 9: Work/Life Balance

  • Help people to balance their home lives with their working lives.
  • If people are happier with the balance of their lives, they will be more motivated and produce better work.

Chapter 10: Putting it All Together

  • People work best when they feel good about themselves.
  • How would your organization be different if management focused on making people feel good?
  • Ask your people for ideas – they may know how things work better than you!

Author of this book, Henry Stewart, in these videos, talks about some of the learning from the book:

http://thinkers50.com/sharing/video-library/ ( 5.24)

http://thinkers50.com/sharing/video-library/ (2.28)

The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque

The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business, by Umair Haque

What can I say, other than that I completely agree with the premise behind this book by Umair Haque – that the way too many large corporations are led delivers ‘thin value’: value spread thinly at the top and not encompassing all of the stakeholders – and that it’s time for new leadership and a new value proposition. Some companies are doing it already. Time for more. Here’s the blurb from publishers Harvard Business School:

“Welcome to the worst decade since the Great Depression. Trillions of dollars of financial assets destroyed; trillions in shareholder value vanished; worldwide GDP stalled.

“But this isn’t a financial crisis, or even an economic one, says Umair Haque. It’s a crisis of institutions-ideals inherited from the industrial age. These ideals include rampant exploitation of resources, top-down command of resource allocations, withholding of information from stakeholders to control them, and a single-minded pursuit of profit for its own sake.

“All this has produced “thin value”-short-term economic gains that accrue to some people far more than others, and that don’t make us happier or healthier. It has left resources depleted and has spawned conflict, organizational rigidity, economic stagnation, and nihilism.

In The New Capitalist Manifesto, Haque advocates a new set of ideals:

(1)Renewal: Use resources sustainably to maximize efficiencies,

(2) Democracy: Allocate resources democratically to foster organizational agility,

(3) Peace: Practice economic non-violence in business,

(4) Equity: Create industries that make the least well off better off, and

(5) Meaning: Generate payoffs that tangibly improve quality of life.

Yes, adopting these ideals requires bold and sustained changes. But some companies-Google, Walmart, Nike-are rising to the challenge. In this bold manifesto, Haque makes an irresistible business case for following their lead.”

Yep, I’ll buy into that.

Phil Dourado

Buy-In. John Kotter’s new book

Harvard Professor John Kotter is creator of the famous Eight Step Change Framework for leading change. Prof Kotter’s new book, Buy-in, is about how to prevent new ideas getting shot down.

In the book, Prof Kotter lists the typical objections that new ideas encounter and gives you useful ‘come back’ arguments for each objection. In the latest Hub TV clip (that’s a link), he gives you a brief example. Some of them are obvious. But, your team and their direct reports may find this way of rehearsing the pros and cons useful for when they have to defend a new idea.

The 60 second book summary

There’s a 60 second summary of the book on John Kotter’s website here .

The Game

A bit of fun: There’s a game created by Prof Kotter’s team to help you or your team anticipate where objections will come from – the type of people who object to new ideas and typical objections.

One criticism from me: Kotter presents all these objectors as ‘difficult’ people with an agenda or axe to grind. That’s often not the case. Often people who challenge new ideas are sincere and not just trying to be difficult. It is important to challenge new ideas so they can be tested in argument, and so any potential problems with them can be worked out in advance by adapting the idea. Your critics are often your best friends in making an idea strong by spotting its weaknesses so they can be fixed. So, don’t assume critics are ‘the enemy’ or just being difficult. Bear that in mind and this is still a useful exercise (and a bit of fun):

Three more one-minute videos

If you like the 60 second clip in Hub TV from Professor Kotter, there are three more clips from him, with three more objections and how to argue back on the Harvard site on this link

Phil Dourado

True North, by Bill George

Bill George is speaking at Leaders in London later this year.

60 Second Summary

* Leadership is about what makes you different; there is no perfect model of a leader
* Stop trying to act like a leader; think ‘leadership’ not ‘leader’
* There are five dimensions of authentic leadership: Purpose; Practising solid values; Heart; Relationships; Self-discipline
* Engage people’s hearts and minds behind the organization’s purpose, rather than behind an individual leader
* You can use authentic leadership to become a market leading organization; it’s about high performance, not about being ‘nice’ for the sake of it

Longer Summary

Bill George was an inspirational, high-achieving leader at the medical instrument company Medtronic, which he grew to become the world’s leading medical technology supplier. Elected CEO in 1991, he became one of the most admired CEOs of his generation as he grew Medtronic’s market capitalization from $1.1 billion to $60 billion, averaging 35% a year from 1996 to 2002. He then became one of the world’s foremost teachers of leadership, as a Harvard Professor and best-selling author.

Most leaders, says George in True North (the follow-up to his book Authentic Leadership) , act the way they think a leader should act, based on leader archetypes (think Churchill, Jack Welch), or the traits, styles and characteristics that have been identified in more than 1,000 studies of leadership over the past fifty years. But, those who see leadership as emulating great leaders or acting out a set of competencies don’t truly lead, says George. You can only effectively lead by finding your authentic voice.

“In the 21st century, without authenticity in leadership,
organizations can’t develop sustained growth.”

For George, leadership isn’t a job title, or a mantle that you put on when you walk into a leadership position, or a set of behaviours defined in your HR Department’s leadership competencies framework. It is the sum total of who you are.

Leadership Is About What Makes You Different

Finding your authentic leadership is the leader’s equivalent of what the business guru Tom Peters calls ‘defining Brand You’. While most leadership theory is spent on codifying what is the same about leadership, George reminds us what the marketplace itself teaches us – sameness creates commodities, difference is what stands out.

No-one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else. One of the 125 leaders George interviewed to define authentic leadership used to be Jack Welch’s assistant at GE in the 1980s. Everyone was running around trying to be like Jack, he explained. Nobody could take that seriously. You need to be who you are, not try to emulate someone else.

Reminds me of my favourite quote about all leadership being autobiography: “Abraham Lincoln was once asked how long it took him to write The Gettysburg Address, the speech that defined a nation. He replied, ‘All my life’.”

There Is No Perfect Profile Of A Leader

All the academic studies have failed to find the profile of a perfect leader, says George, because leaders are highly complex human beings, people who have distinctive qualities that cannot be sufficiently described by lists or traits or characteristics. Once we realise this, says George, and also realise that leadership is not a position, we can stop being bent out of shape by trying to fit into the straitjacket of leadership definitions and instead accept four liberating new laws of leadership:

1. You do not have to be born with the characteristics of a leader
2. You do not have to wait for a tap on the shoulder
3. You do not have to be at the top of your organization
4. You can step up and lead at any point in your life

The Five Dimensions Of Authentic Leadership

Traditional leaders focus on their own success and on getting loyal subordinates to follow them to achieve that success. Authentic leaders, by contrast, inspire others to lead around a shared purpose, rather than around the leader.

This doesn’t mean authentic leaders are perfect. In fact, it is a defining feature of authenticity that you admit to your flaws rather than hide behind the mystique of the leader who can never make a mistake.

George’s research shows, he says, that there are five dimensions to an authentic leader

1. Purpose: Without knowing your purpose (why you lead) you are at the mercy of ego
2. Practising solid values: Integrity is the core value. If your practice slips and slides under pressure, people quickly lose confidence in your leadership
3. Heart: This means having passion for your work and the courage to make difficult decisions
4. Relationships: Authentic leaders develop enduring relationships
5. Self-discipline: Setting high standards, taking responsibility for outcomes, and holding others accountable for their performance, takes strong self-discipline

Critique of True North and its interpretation of ‘authentic’

Following on from Warren Bennis

According to George, an authentic leader has found his or her inner voice and remains true to it. This is Warren Bennis stuff, for anyone who’s read Bennis. And it’s no surprise True North is part of the ‘Warren Bennis Signature Series’ imprint. George echoes the Dean of Leadership (as the FT calls Bennis), when he says that true authentic leaders have commonly been through an extremely tough experience that reveals their true nature to themselves – the death of a loved one, bankruptcy, overcoming serious illness.

Bennis observed that authentic leaders are often forged in the crucible of overcoming adversity, whether as a child or later in their career. This echoes Hemingway’s “The world breaks all of us. But some are strong at the broken places.” And it plays to the heroic, romantic leadership model, even if unintentionally.

We tend to have an archetype in our head of leaders as infallible, certain of where they are going, moving from success to success. Even George’s phrase ‘True North’ reinforces that image. But, great leaders – authentic leaders – often don’t feel that way when they are in the middle of achieving great things.

Great leaders don’t necessarily ‘feel’ great when they are in the middle of it

Anne Mulcahy, the CEO credited with rescuing Xerox from its downward spiral, is a case in point. The emotional roller coaster of trying to keep people at Xerox motivated and pull the company back from the brink was so draining that, at one point, Mulcahy described to George, she was on the way home, drained, and had to pull over to the side of the road. She sat there, temporarily unable to move, and said to herself, “I don’t know where to go. I don’t want to go home. There’s just no place to go.”

The boxer Jack Dempsey once supposedly said champions get up when they can’t. Dempsey would have said, Mulcahey ‘got up when she couldn’t’. And she is now widely praised as the woman who saved Xerox (a claim she would herself deny, as she credits a lot of people at Xerox with saving the company). That’s the test of an authentic leader, says George.

And, of course it applies to people at all levels, not just the top of an organisation. You lead your own life by refusing to be knocked out of shape and by getting up when you are knocked down.

Can a ‘not nice’ leader be an ‘authentic leader’?

The over-riding impression of an ‘authentic leader’ from True North is of a leader in George’s own image: he was a brilliant, empathetic leader at Medtronic (inventor of the pacemaker), which he grew by encouraging leadership at all levels, driven by the higher purpose of saving lives. The 125 leaders he profiled for his research into authentic leaders tend to be like that, too, kind of tough but fair benevolent teacher/leader figures.

Which raises the question: is an apparently autocratic, empathy-lite leader such as the UK’s Alan Sugar or Rupert Murdoch an authentic leader? Of course they are, in the sense that they are honest and true to themselves. What you see is what you get. But, I’m not sure either of them have been through the deep inner journey of enlightenment and understanding self and others that Bill George says is necessary to be an authentic leader.

Nor does being authentic mean being nice, though George tends towards analyzing leaders in this book who exhibit his own traits: nice, empathetic, challenging, values-driven. So, just as all leadership is autobiography, True North and Authentic Leadership can be seen as tinged with George’s own autobiography.

All leadership (books) is (are) autobiography

I once heard Tom Peters, in the middle of a rant about how wrong Jim Collins (author of Good To Great) is to champion quiet, ‘ego lite’ leaders, suddenly break off and say, as an aside, “The older I get the more convinced I become that whatever we think we are writing about, we are writing about ourselves.” That is searingly honest and insightful.

The famously charismatic and shout-y Peters champions loud and proud and colourful leaders with big personalities (like, er, himself). The quietly-spoken, introspective, Collins champions quietly-spoken, introspective, non ego driven leaders. Therefore their research, and the people they hold up as objectively-discovered great leaders that just happen to emerge from the research (Collins at least) clearly aren’t as objectively discovered as they would like to think. There appears to be a good deal of projection going on.

Similarly, George tends to equate ‘authentic’ leadership with his own type of caring (but demanding: that’s how he achieved results at Medtronic) leadership. I think it would be interesting to study equally authentic ‘not nice’ leaders, often those who appear to be driven by ego and the need to win.

Is Rupert Murdoch an authentic leader? Of course he is, as he is true to himself. Is he nice to work for? That’s a different question. Does he shape News International in his own image, rather than aligning people behind a shared set of universal values they all buy into? Of course he does. Ego-driven and Authentic aren’t mutually exclusive, whereas George fudges the logic a bit and seems to conclude they are. I wish they were. But, I’m not convinced of it.

Background: How Bill George led Medtronic : “From ‘I’ to ‘We'”

This isn’t in the book: I researched it separately as it makes useful background before you read the book.

George received his BSc in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech, and MBA from Harvard. His early career was spent as an executive with Honeywell and Litton Industries, and he served in the US Department of Defense.

His definition of leadership involves developing the organization so that passion and inspiration are built into the system, not merely dependent on the CEO, an objective he put to the test by setting himself a ten-year term limit as CEO of Medtronic. His strategy for embedding leadership proved to be right, as Medtronic’s growth path is just as strong today, when it stands at 222nd largest company in the US by market capitalisation, up from 349th in the year George stepped down.

George says the key to effective leadership today is in the transformation from ‘I’ to ‘We’, which he put into practice at Medtronic, inventor of the pacemaker. This involves focussing on the leadership of others, to embed leadership in the system. At Medtronic, people at all levels – 30,000 employees – were shown how to link what they do every day with the company’s core purpose, so they could take the lead in their own jobs. The first thing George himself did on joining the company was to don a surgical gown and spend 120 days watching procedures like open heart surgery, to learn how the company’s products could be improved.

George spotted early on that the company lacked a closed-loop performance management system and the ability to execute plans on schedule. For instance, it took Medtronic four years to bring a new pacemaker to market where competitors were doing it in two. Under George’s stewardship, that time was cut to 16 months.

George also discovered that Medtronic had individuals who were incredibly knowledgeable about the business but who lacked critical leadership skills. The company had grown up faster than the leadership teams. So he gave some people who were great functional managers the opportunity to hold leadership roles. He created the ‘Medtronic Fellows’ programme, for high-potential leaders to go to business school.

Leadership Demands Accountability And High Performance

To ensure strategy execution, George was ruthless on performance. At first this confused employees – he talked about empowering them as leaders, but came down hard when they didn’t hit deadlines. With ‘empowered’ local leadership comes the responsibility to perform, and George was relentless in driving this home. He met bi-monthly or monthly with business groups, travelling across the US and around the world to meet them rather than bringing them to head office, to review performance. George also led a worldwide reorganization away from multilayered management to structure around business units, bringing the organization closer to customers.

Known for his integrity and authenticity, George has translated his experience into a practical values-based leadership that delivers results. His research at Harvard Business School into 125 successful leaders helped him codify Authentic Leadership, as he calls it, leading to the creation of Harvard’s MBA in Authentic Leadership, which he teaches.

Bill George now serves as a Director of Goldman Sachs, Novartis, ExxonMobil and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 2002, George was selected as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business People of the Last 25 Years”.

Bill George is speaking at Leaders in London later this year

Phil Dourado Copyright (c) The Leadership Hub