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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Enlightenging
I could not wait to dive into True North after having read and reviewed George's first book, Authentic Leadership. While North is a great read, I have to say that I enjoyed Authentic far more. North is less of a book about leadership principles as it is a collection of interviews of great business leaders. Don't get me wrong, the book is about leadership principles but...
Published on March 9, 2007 by Stoney deGeyter

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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compass with no map?
I am not sure if the authors are clear on their objectives for this book. It certainly contains a wealth of information about leadership characteristics and behaviours but little practical advice.

It is also inspirational in places; however, I am left with what feels like a collection of random cameos of leadership wisdom, which in themselves are useful, but...
Published on August 30, 2007 by Stephen Parry


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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Enlightenging, March 9, 2007
I could not wait to dive into True North after having read and reviewed George's first book, Authentic Leadership. While North is a great read, I have to say that I enjoyed Authentic far more. North is less of a book about leadership principles as it is a collection of interviews of great business leaders. Don't get me wrong, the book is about leadership principles but the vast majority of the content is actual examples, stories and quotes of great leaders reflecting on each of those principles.

For those who learn by stories, North will be a valuable read. I found the stories compelling and interesting, and even applicable, but at times it just felt like that's all there was to North, story after story after story.

George does a great job integrating his narrative into the recounting of each leader's story, but ultimately I felt that the book lacked the meat that was part of Authentic. Still, North provides a valuable insight into the business leadership community as well as the struggles, trials, and failures they have suffered on their way to success. We are also given a glimpse each leader's success from the human standpoint, rather than the hero standpoint, which is a very refreshing perspective.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To thine ownself be true....", February 26, 2007
It is preferable but not imperative to have read previously published Authentic Leadership before reading this book which Bill George also wrote, with Peter Sims. In the former, George observes that authentic leaders are first and foremost authentic human beings. For me, this is his key point and because it seems so obvious, it may also seem simplistic. On the contrary, he has cut through all the rhetoric and urges his reader to examine her or his own core values. For most of us, that is an immensely difficult, perhaps painful experience. In this context, I am reminded of the fact that in The Inferno, Dante reserves the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Throughout all manner of organizations, there are women and men who are authentic leaders and should be commended. The reality is, their respective organizations need more of them. Indeed, all of us in our global community need more of them. In Authentic Leadership, a truly unique and compelling book, George challenges us to join their number.

What we have in True North is a further development of George's concept of authentic leadership but also a rigorous, revealing, and rewarding analysis of what George and Sims learned during their interviews of more than 100 leaders. Most of their names were previously unfamiliar to me, although all are eminently worthy of the attention they receive. (That's a key point: Many - too many - studies of "leadership" limit their attention to C-level executives - usually "celebrity CEOs" -- when, in fact, authentic leadership is needed at all levels and in all areas of an organization, whatever its size and nature may be.) At twenty-three, Jonathan Doochin was the youngest leader interviewed; while a senior in college, he created Harvard's Leadership Institute. Ninety-three-year old Zyg Nagorski was the "senior" leader" interviewed for this study; after running the Aspen Institute's Executive Programs for a decade, he stepped aside at seventy-five and then, with his wife, started the Center for International Leadership and continues to conduct values and ethics seminars eighteen years later.

George and Sims discuss an unusually diverse group of men and women in terms of what is characterized as a three-phase "journey to authentic leadership" which begins with character formation and culminates (not concludes) with full development of authentic leadership within five separate but related dimensions: pursuing purpose with passion, practicing purpose with passion, practicing solid values, leading with heart, establishing connected relationships, and demonstrating self-discipline.

Hundreds (thousands?) of self-help books on leadership also invoke the "journey" metaphor while suggesting all manner of "phases," "stages," "dimensions," etc. What sets this book apart from them is the authenticity of what interviewees share so candidly and so generously. More specifically, as in Geeks and Geezers co-authored by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas, those interviewed recall especially difficult experiences such as the death of a spouse or a child, losing a high-profile job, an extended illness, a failed marriage, etc. In fact, what Bennis and Thomas refer to as a "crucible" is all about the only personal experience shared in common by those whom George and Sims interviewed.

I was tempted to cite some exemplary "crucibles" provided in the book but have decided not to because each should be presented within the context of the lively narrative. However, I will observe that, for me, some of the most interesting and valuable material in this book focuses on coping with severe hardships of one kind or another. Long ago, Jack Dempsey observed that "champions get up when they can't." Authentic leaders must first become authentic people and, more often than not, that process requires experiencing and then overcoming being "knocked down." To paraphrase Dempsey, authentic leaders get up.

It is worth noting that throughout the narrative, most of those interviewed emphasized the importance of establishing and then nourishing personal relationships. This is especially true of those who are entrusted with leadership responsibilities. More often than not, what George and Sims characterize as a process of "peeling back the onion" to locate the "authentic self" requires the assistance, indeed the direct involvement of others. David Pottruck (former CEO of Charles Schwab) offers a compelling example of someone who created all kinds of problems for himself in his professional career and personal life until, finally and probably desperate, he assembled his colleagues and said "I am Dave Pottruck, and I have some broken leadership skills. I'm going to try to be a different person. I need your help, and ask you to be open to the possibility that I can change." Pottruck credits others and especially his third wife, Emily, for helping him to become - finally - an authentic person.

What about the title? According to George and Sims, True North is "the internal compass that guides you as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point - your fixed point in a spinning world - that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership." Many readers will appreciate the provision of several self-audit exercises in Appendix C, each of which is dedicated to issues addressed in a specific chapter. I presume to suggest reviewing all of the exercises first before beginning to read this book, then proceed chapter-by-chapter, pausing to complete the appropriate exercise per each.

I was especially interested in what George and Sims have to say about "Empowering People to Lead" (Chapter 10). Appropriately, they stress the importance of mutual respect which they view as the "basis for empowerment" (I agree). Peter Drucker despised the word "empowerment." (I don't. Only misapplication of it.) Just as authentic leaders must first be authentic people, empowered cultures must be comprised of empowered people. CEOs as diverse as Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Roy Vagelos (Merck), and Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Carlson Companies) have much of value to say about how to empower people throughout any organization and precisely the same values should also guide and inform relations with those outside the given organization.

Although George and Sims eloquently advocate the importance of developing leadership at all levels and in all areas of a given organization, they correctly emphasize the necessity of having leadership provided by a wholly authentic CEO, one thinks of power only in terms of first-person plural pronouns. In this context, I am reminded of a passage in Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching:

Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.

Those who share my high regard are urged to read the aforementioned Authentic Leadership and Geeks and Geezers as well as Success Built to Last co-authored by Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery, and Mark Thompson, Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, James O'Toole's The Executive's Compass and Creating the Good Life, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward's Firing Back, and David Whyte's The Heart Aroused.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book, March 2, 2007
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This book is for people who care deeply about being leaders, true to themselves, and focused on creating a positive impact. By analyzing over a hundred of the world's most resourceful leaders in every field and of every age, the authors give the reader a sense of companionship on the journey of life. True North makes you comfortable in your own skin, while pushing you to be a better you, rather than to be things that you are not. We learn that leadership is sustainable when it is built on authentic values and passions, not just ambition and competence.

What I loved most about True North were the stories of all the leaders who have given us details of their struggles and triumphs. Those stories gave me great insights into these unique individuals, but more importantly, they helped me better understand myself, my purpose and my life. The book is an easy read, and ranks high on "number of cool insights per page."
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compass with no map?, August 30, 2007
By 
Stephen Parry "Author of Sense and Respond" (Lean Service Transformation Designer London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I am not sure if the authors are clear on their objectives for this book. It certainly contains a wealth of information about leadership characteristics and behaviours but little practical advice.

It is also inspirational in places; however, I am left with what feels like a collection of random cameos of leadership wisdom, which in themselves are useful, but together lack cohesion. If the book is trying to say `look, the world of leadership is very complex, random and idiosyncratic' then it achieves this very well but if they are trying to provide direction in such a world then the book clearly fails.

There is no framework for potential leaders to follow, the authors only state that if you know your true north and your values you can be authentic, which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot at a tropical tea party.

If you are a successful leader already I dare say you would agree with most of this book but if you are an aspiring leader then providing the compass without a map is very cruel.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic, March 8, 2007
True North is an instant classic -- that rare kind of book that can change your life. I read an early copy of True North and it knocked my socks off. Bill George and Peter Sims chart a compelling new course for the way we think about leadership and what it means to be a leader in the 21st century. It couldn't come at a better time, when we are in desperate need of more enlightened leaders in our society.

True North re-centers the leadership journey on authenticity, not celebrity, and grounds it in our most personal values. True North empowers leaders to give themselves permission to be human, and to discover their greatest leadership potential in that humanity. The authentic leaders profiled here demonstrate this beautifully and show how authenticity leads to healthier, more innovative, and more successful organizations.

This book is destined to have a far-reaching impact on the business world. George and Sims have articulated what many leaders feel intuitively but struggle to express. In the coming months, True North will provoke powerful "ah-ha's!" around the world and with any luck will help create a new generation of True North leaders.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review from Bill's First Class Teaching at Harvard, April 21, 2007
By 
Erik Counselman (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For many of us in HBS Section B 2005, (Bill George's first section teaching at Harvard Business School), the most valuable experience of our $120K education was learning from and engaging with Bill to examine the role of ethics, authenticity, and accountability in business leadership.

Bill was consistent, constantly challenging our preconcieved notions, asking hard questions that lead us to self-examination, and tirelessly engaging in our development. He came to class with a perspective on leadership born from an unmatched career at Medtronic, Honeywell, and the DoD. When Bill said "Your job as a leader is to define reality for your organization", reminded us to listen more than we talk, and encouraged us to spend at least 5-7 years with one company so that our own mistakes would have time to catch up with us, we listened.

Unfortunately, very few others will ever get the opportunity to sit in a section of 90 people with him. True North, and Authentic Leadership are the next best thing. Every business leader should have to read these books at the beginning of their career and then again every time they're up for promotion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your Compass for Living, Leading, and Leaving a Legacy, May 13, 2013
Reflection on True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (2007)
by Bill George with Peter Sims

The purpose of Bill George's book True North is to help both young and experienced leaders develop in their self-awareness in order to maximize their efforts as leaders. Though slanted towards the business community, the lessons offered are easily applicable to leaders in the public and social sectors as well. The author argues that through a critical reflection of a leader's personal story, core competencies, held values, and motivations can lead to the discovery of their "True North". Such characteristics that authentic leaders demonstrate include self-discipline, contagious passion, honesty, and integrity. Authentic leaders remain true to themselves despite the situation. They are essentially the same person at work as they are at home with family or out in society.

Bill George defines True North as the internal, moral compass that guides a person's beliefs and behaviors in all aspects of an integrated life. George makes the claim that when leaders become authentic, vulnerable, and transparent, their leadership ability is strengthened enough to not only earn success, but also to sustain them through challenges, setbacks, and adversity. When organizational as well as personal crises do arise, a leader who is deeply guided by their True North is more likely to preserve and experience growth through the trial. Authentic leaders who are in synch with their True North are able to align their teams around a common purpose, empower others to their full potential, and produce superior results. They tend to value serving others over being served and usually have an ambitious desire to make a difference in the world.

True North makes an incredible contribution to the study of a focused life. Most prominently, this advancement is made through its analysis of the life stories of 125 leaders from a wide range of age groups. Selected not only for their achievements, but also for their reputation of authenticity, each individual account shows how living by a genuine and ethical compass is often more critical than living by a timetable or a clock. Throughout the book, George shares candidly about his experiences, good and bad, as CEO of Medtronic, as well as his wife's battle with cancer. Other well-known leaders profiled include Warren Bennis, Jack Welch, A.G. Lafley, Charles Schwab, and Howard Schultz. Though the names of some of the other interviewees may be less recognizable, the powerful truths shared in their personal accounts will convict the reader to examine their own life. By providing chapter exercises for considering the circumstances of our own context, George teaches his audience the necessity of reflecting on the past in order to refocus the present and fashion a more positive future.

George distinguishes between three stages on the journey to authentic leadership: preparation typically birth until age thirty; leading from age thirty to sixty; and giving back between the ages of sixty and ninety. Though this triad of developmental stages surely is not accurate for every leader, it does complement the decadal timeline review suggested by other students of life calling and leadership, such as Bobby Clinton and Parker Palmer. One advantage of George's three stages is that by showing how leadership development happens at every phase the reader can pinpoint where they may be in the process and determine the next step in creating a life of meaning. Therefore, this model of learning and self-discovery can be of tremendous assistance to all ages, especially the recent graduate, midlife professional, or the senior adult looking to create an encore chapter in life.

The concepts that brought about the most personal resonance include the benefits from leading with strengths to minimize weaknesses and fulfill a specific mission. George illustrates that by cooperating with others who have complimentary abilities requires a sense of security common among authentic leaders. Also, a person may have several passions that though seemingly unrelated can, coincide to complement one another in directing purposeful leadership. This element of leadership passion is also rooted in personal experiences. George writes that "For most leaders, passion comes from their life stories. By understanding the meaning of key events in your life story and reframing them, you can discern what your passions are that in turn will lead you to the purpose of your leadership" (p. 158). Other advantages that aid to the developing of an authentic life and leading with purpose can be the seeking out of mentors and support groups that are mutually beneficial. Such practices can dramatically expedient personal leadership and professional advancement, years before their time.

The emphasis on a high regard of values, translates leadership principles into action. Therefore, values are similar to the needle on a True North compass. They are evidenced by pointing the direction to travel. For this reason, George clarifies the differences in intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. While the latter is more concerned with materialistic accumulation, a positional title, or the approval of others, the former is derived internally and focused on a life of meaning. For authentic leaders, joining to help with a social cause is typically more important than expanding their social status. In addressing the cultural shifts in employment from the previously dominate manufacturing industries to a more knowledge based workforce, people now have the privilege of vocational options. George shows through his own story in the medical field, that career and calling do not have to be compartmentalized. Whether in corporations or nonprofit ministries, authentic leaders with a focused life are able to leave a legacy.

In the Epilogue, George, calls the reader to contemplate that which they will be remembered for. The notion of legacy assumes a goal to be realized and an impact that transcends generations. So then, the need for critical reflection of self should also include a process for determining success. While monetary rewards are important, the leaders interviewed cautioned about making financial incentives the only factor. Instead, being true to who you are and allocating room for family and personal relationships, community involvement, and spiritual practices are essential for living a satisfied life of significance.

The most crucial concept I plan on integrating into my life and ministry from the book True North, is the adaptability of leadership styles. Of the six leadership styles discussed: directive, engaged, coaching, consensus, affiliative, and expert, I associated most with the engaged and coaching styles. Engaged leaders seek to be involved with everyone at all parts of the organization, and lead through influence and motivation based on relationship. Coaching leaders are focused on the development of others. They lead by helping teammates come to new realizations and improve performance though introspection and counsel. Both engaged and coaching leadership styles are centered on the ability to work with others and multiply the team's talent exponentially. The power of the leader is ironically found in the way they empower others. This type of interdependent relationship yields greater degrees of creativity and commitment. As a leader in the local church, the need for authenticity should be obvious. Helping people to grow in faith and also to discover their authentic identity are the primary functions of my ministry philosophy. True North will serve as a great reminder for the need to be transparent and vulnerable while committing to the cause I have in Christ
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expanding on Good to Great, January 23, 2013
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This review is from: True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series) (Kindle Edition)
Good. Not great. Almost all examples are of people that made it. No mention of false positive or true negatives. Could not figure out the criteria or logic used to select people for interviews. Stanford student?

Having said that, some good personal stories. Lot of it about Howard Schultz.

Key learning: Don't pick a career early in your life based on out of the gate remuneration alone.

If you can and have the stomach for it, pick a good boss. Yourself.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Leadership book that makes you think, March 13, 2007
George and Sim's book makes you think about leadership and your own being. Each chapter has a list of questions which encourage interaction with others. It brings out the authentic leader in yourself - including the set of values / principles on which you have built your own foundation of leadership. This book is about being a true leader, leading with passion and purpose, while being authentic as well. George and Sims have written a "text book", which I am sharing with my entire leadership team. "Remember it is a process not a destination."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!, April 1, 2014
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Great book. I enjoyed reading the many stories of respected executives who shared their personal experiences and can apply much of what I read in my leadership toolkit.
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