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Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value Paperback – August 11, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
George, a former Medtronic CEO, sets the tone early in his book: "Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the imperative of selecting leaders that create healthy corporations for the long term." It would be wonderful if George then provided readers hungry for change with a blueprint for how this could happen; alas, such is not the case. George's thesis-too many CEOs think only in the short term and of the stock price, eventually losing a company's focus in the hurtling pursuit of Wall Street validation-is not a bad one.. His proposal: a call for "authentic leadership," that is, finding a leader who doesn't try to emulate the greats, because such copycatting will never result in authenticity or honest leadership. It all gets a bit fuzzy at times, and George (who BusinessWeek recognized as a top-25 manager in 1998) relies far too much on his experience at Medtronic, a medical technology producer. Although George's company seems a good example of what he's talking about (he once made headlines by boldly declaring "Shareholders come third," after customers and employees), there's not a rigorous enough attempt here to make that example universally applicable. Though superbly moral and inspiring, this volume is not as helpful as it could be.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“…even sceptics will like the book’s balanced tone...” (Management Today, Feb. 2005)
George candidly recounts his experiences as chair and CEO of Medtronic, a medical technology producer, and makes a case that we need new, authentic business leaders. The five essential dimensions of "authentic" leaders are purpose, values, heart, relationships, and self-discipline. In the scorched, post-Enron corporate world, this motivational how-to will help developing business leaders find the path to personal and business success. (Best Business Books 2003, Library Journal, March 15, 2004)
George, a former Medtronic CEO, sets the tone early in his book: "Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the imperative of selecting leaders that create healthy corporations for the long term." It would be wonderful if George then provided readers hungry for change with a blueprint for how this could happen; alas, such is not the case. George's thesis - too many CEOs think only in the short term and of the stock price, eventually losing a company's focus in the hurtling pursuit of all Street validation - is not a bad one. His proposal: a call for "authentic leadership," that is, finding a leader who doesn't try to emulate the greats, because such copycatting will never result in authenticity or honest leadership. It all gets a bit fuzzy at times, and George (who BusinessWeek recognized as a top-25 manager in 1998) relies far too much on his experience at Medtronic, a medical technology producer. Although George's company seems a good example of what he's talking about (he once made headlines by boldly declaring "Shareholders come third," after customers and employees), there's not a rigor9ous enough attempt here to make that example universally applicable. Though superbly moral and inspiring, this volume is not as helpful as it could be. (Aug.)
Forecast: With appearances on Meet the Press and Talk of the Nation, George has a recognizable name in the media, and scheduled interviews on NPR and the Charlie Rose Show will only help with book sales. (Publishers Weekly, July 7, 2003)
"There is a great deal of valuable insight in Authentic Leadership. One can only wish that Mr. George had written it five years ago, before so many chief executives led their companies so badly astray." (New York Times, July 27, 2003)--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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According to George, "leadership begins and ends with authenticity. It's being yourself; being the person you were created to be" (11). He comments on the tendency in the literature on leadership to emphasize lists of characteristics of effective leaders to be emulated by students. The emphasis is on style, and aspiring leaders need only adopt these styles to be effective. George, instead, encourages aspiring leaders to be authentic and develop as people who are authentic leaders.
What makes a leader authentic? First, the leader will have a genuine desire to serve and be guided by matters of the heart, by passion and compassion, as well as by qualities of the mind (12). Second, the leader will be his or her own person, and not attempt to emulate all the characteristics or style of other leaders who are deemed successful (12). Third, the leader will develop his or her own style of leading, one consistent with his or her personality or character (13). Fourth, the leader will be in touch with his or her own weaknesses, and will be able to resist the tendency to cover up shortcomings and pretend to be something they are not in order to win the admiration of others (14-15).
George describes five dimensions of authentic leaders, or the qualities that true leaders must develop (18). First, leaders must understand their purpose, which can lead to a driving passion (19, 36). Second, leaders must practice solid values, which then define behavior, even in the crucible of difficult circumstances (20, 37). Third, leaders must lead with heart, which allows the leader to have compassion, especially for employees (22, 39). Fourth, leaders must stay connected through enduring relationships (23, 40). Finally, leaders must demonstrate self-discipline because their lives are examined closely by those within and without a corporation (24, 41).
It could be argued the Bill George falls into the "servant-leadership" school of thought when he states that "authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others" (12). This echoes the thinking of Robert K. Greenleaf, who is often considered to be the father of the modern servant-leadership movement, when he describes servant-leaders as those who act on their natural desire to serve. A question often raised in discussions over Greenleaf's conception of leadership is whether or not a person does have a natural desire to serve, and if not, then from where does that desire come? Christians believe that desire comes from the transforming presence of Jesus Christ in the life of the leader. Perhaps this reveals a bias in George's book. He claims that authentic leaders will have a genuine desire to serve others, but he does not state explicitly from where the leader receives that desire. Does he believe, like Greenleaf, that the desire comes naturally? George writes of his faith and church participation and how that has helped shape him as a leader. One might say that George's authenticity is the result of the presence of Christ in his life. If that is true, then can non-Christian leaders be authentic as George has defined and described it?
Authentic Leadership is an important book because it provides a welcome and needed perspective that is likely to be widely read in secular leadership studies. George clearly and concisely spells out the lessons he has learned about authenticity and the difference it can make for the leader, his or her family, and the company as a whole, including customers, employees and shareholders. He addresses the concerns of corporate America from a thoughtful, well-informed and seasoned perspective. His examples are both personal and relevant. George writes specifically for corporate leaders, and the book is most appropriate for that setting. However, there are truths about authenticity that are important for leaders in all settings.
What, specifically, does Authentic Leadership have to say to those serving in ministerial leadership positions? George's five characteristics of authentic leadership are helpful for ministers. Pastors and churches sometimes borrow or copy styles and methods from successful models in the hopes that it will lead to success in their context. George encourages leaders to know their purpose and be the people they were created to be. Concepts such as calling, mission, and purpose can help provide an anchor when pastors are tempted by self-esteem issues, especially if success in ministry is defined by large numbers of people participating in church activities instead of defining it biblically as obedience to the word of the Lord. Jesus Christ provides the foundational values that drive all ministerial leadership, and Christ gave a model for how to lead with heart and humbly serve to meet the needs of others when he picked up a towel and basin to wash the feet of the disciples.
Connected and enduring relationships are also important for ministerial leaders, as is the importance of maintaining self-discipline. It is a given that ministers and their families are under constant scrutiny, and the stakes are high in terms of influence and example. Pastors should be diligent in having deep, accountable, and encouraging same gender friendships where they can be told the truth in love and own their weaknesses. Without owning their "shadow selves," leaders will be tempted to work for the approval of others. Dan Allender echoes George by encouraging leaders to be honest about their failures with those who follow them and confess to being the organization's chief sinner (Dan B. Allender, Leading with A Limp, Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2006, 2-3). This raises a question: how safe is it for ministers to be authentic with their parishioners? Pastors must be wise about whom they make a manager of their personal information, but the need for authentic, connected relationships remains. Ministerial leaders and churches should work to create a culture in which ministers can find a safe place to be authentic without the fear of repercussions because of their weaknesses.
Ministerial leaders may not find Authentic Leadership to be as relevant as other books written specifically for ministry situations, but George still has important words of wisdom related to being the person you were created to be, owning your weaknesses, establishing connected relationships, maintaining a healthy balance in every area of life, and on the role of innovators in an organization and the importance of governance. These are issues that all leaders face, regardless of the context.
What sets this book apart is its call for authenticity in leadership ("discover and cultivate that authentic self") - as opposed to being prescriptive, as is the case with most books in its category. Bill brings corporate America back to its root - authentic, genuine, worthy of trust, reliance, and belief. A highly recommended read that stresses the need for new leadership - authentic leadership!
Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:
1- "We need authentic leaders, people of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations. We need leaders who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society."
2- "I believe that leadership begins and ends with authenticity. It's being yourself; being the person you were created to be. This is not what most of the literature on leadership says, nor is it what the experts in corporate America teach...They describe the styles of leaders and suggest that you adopt them. This is the opposite of authenticity. It is about developing the image or persona of a leader."
3- "There is no doubt that CEOs have tremendous influence on the results of corporations. However, if we examine more closely the great success stories of the past twenty-five years...we see that each was built by a team at the top, not by a single person."
4- "The key is having people around you who complement your weaknesses and make up for your lack of experience."
5- "To become authentic, each of us has to develop our own leadership style, consistent with our personality and character. Unfortunately the pressures of an organization push us to adhere to its normative style. But if you conform to a style that is not consistent with who we are, we will never become authentic leaders."
6- "Dimensions of Authentic Leaders: 1) Understanding their purpose 2) Practicing solid values 3) Leading with heart 4) Establishing connected relationship 5) Demonstrating self-discipline"
7- "The medium for developing into an authentic leader is not the destination but the journey itself - a journey to find your true self and the purpose of your life's work."
8- "...For each of the dimensions, a developmental quality is required for leaders to be effective: 1) Purpose: Passion 2) Values: Behavior 3) Heart: Compassion 4) Relationships: Connectedness 5) Self-Discipline: Consistency"
9- "Balanced leaders develop healthier organizations. By appropriately delegating their work, balanced leaders are able to make more thoughtful decisions and lead more effectively. Their employees make higher levels of commitment to the organization. In the end they achieve better results on the bottom line."
10- "These five characteristics of the authentic company parallel closely the five dimensions of the authentic leader: 1) Purpose: Mission and vision 2) Values: Company values 3) Heart: Empowering employees to serve customers 4) Relationships: Enduring and committed organization 5) Self-Discipline: Results for all stakeholders"
11- "Articulating an organization's value is straightforward, but gaining alignment of all employees throughout the company is much more difficult...Inculcating values throughout an organization starts with the leader, who sets the standard of behavior for everyone in the organization. The leader has to work hard every day to gain alignment with the company's values, reinforcing positive actions and swiftly taking action with employees who do not emulate these values."
12- "Companies that devote themselves to maximizing shareholder value will ultimately fail to do so. It is true that a sharp eye to cutting costs can result in significant improvements in a company's short-term position, but unless the cost cuts are followed by much larger long-term investments, the company is bound to lose its way. Shareholder value will stagnate and eventually decline."
13- "Some executives mistakenly believe serving all stakeholders results in trade-offs and compromises shareholder value...In serving all the company's stakeholders, the company's sustained success makes shareholders the ultimate beneficiaries."
14- "Pitfalls to Sustainable Growth: 1) Working without a clear mission 2) Underestimating the core business 3) Depending on a single product line 4) Failing to spot technology and market changes 5) Changing strategy without changing culture 6) Going outside core competencies 7) Counting on acquisitions for growth"
15- "(On Acquisitions)...The key is the integration process. Acquired companies can bring great creative and technical capabilities with them and challenge the existing organization to sharpen its innovative skills. They can also strengthen the management team with new talent and new approaches to serving customers. As the result of an effective process of integrating acquired companies, companies develop more enduring organizations."