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True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership Hardcover – March 9, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787987514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787987510
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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)

Review

"With great clarity and insight, Bill George and Peter Sims make a persuasive argument that the journey toward authentic leadership—that finding and pursuing your own True North--is the key to leadership in all fields, whether in business, government, or the nonprofit arena."
—From the Foreword by David Gergen 

"In True North, Bill George once again provides a roadmap for leadership in the 21st Century. The future belongs to leaders who want to win, without ever losing track of their own values. We live in a day when the best people can work anywhere. They will follow only authenticity—a person who leads with passion and purpose."
—Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric

"True North is an awe-inspiring gift to the world. The 125 men and women whose leadership journeys are so beautifully rendered in this book show us that we can have enormous impact without compromising our values—indeed, that we are more successful when we stay true to our ideals. Every aspiring leader (or leader who aspires to become even better) will draw strength and wisdom from this wonderful book."
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End

"True North is about the power of authentic leadership. Great leaders are defined by a sense of passion and purpose and by a profound desire to make a difference. Anyone can find their own True North, if you care deeply and love what you do. This book is a wonderful roadmap for how to get started on the journey."
—Andrea Jung, chairman and CEO, Avon Products, Inc.

"If you want to move your leadership in the right direction, read True North. Drawing on the personal stories of some of the world’s most effective leaders, the book shows that you become a successful leader when you stay on course with your highest self."
—Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

"True North provides a new leadership paradigm and a window into the stories and approaches of dozens of our nation’s best leaders.  It is an inspirational, invaluable source of guidance for those who want to make a significant impact."
—Wendy Kopp, president and founder of Teach for America

"True North reveals just how powerful authentic leadership can be and, best of all, how to achieve it."
—Warren Bennis


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Customer Reviews

If you have children, buy this book and have them read it.
Larry K. Adams
True North is about the type of leader that leads authentically and thus consistently--though we each express this leadership in our own individual way.
Brayden Olson
Overall it was a good read and I felt the book gave me some direction.
Jules1817

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Stoney deGeyter on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Fawzi Jumean on March 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Parry on August 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By Matthew Breitfelder on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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