Sunday, September 30, 2007

True North by Bill George

I’d heard a lot about this and I was looking forward to reading it. Now that I have, I’d have to say I was pretty disappointed with it. I was expecting it to provide a roadmap on how to develop leadership skills based on your own personal strengths and traits. Instead, it said the best leaders are those who are authentic, who base their leadership on their own personal strengths and traits, so go be that kind of leader. And then it gives a bunch a ridiculous examples.

Bill was CEO of a billion dollar corporation, and was having trouble turning it into a multi-billion dollar corporation. So he went on a six month sabbatical in Australia, found his authentic leadership, and came back and grew his company into a trillion dollar corporation.

Oh. Okay. Next time I’m having trouble, I’ll give that a try.

Many leaders go through a crucible when they have an experience at work that dramatically tests their sense of self, their values, or their assumptions about their future or career. I call this “hitting the wall,” because the experience resembles a fast-moving race car hitting the wall of the track, something most rising leaders experience at least once in their careers.

Well, at least I can relate to that. That last year at my previous place of work was certainly my crucible, and I feel very much like I’m just now beginning to find some of the confidence I used to have. It really tested my sense of self.

Many young leaders are tempted to take high-salaried jobs to pay off loans or build their savings, even if they have no interest in the work and do not intend to stay. They believe that after ten years they can move on to do the work they love. Yet many become so dependent on maintaining a certain lifestyle that they get trapped in jobs where they are demotivated and unhappy. Locked into the high-income/high-expense life, they cannot afford to do work they love. Ironically, not one of the leaders interviewed wound up taking a position predicated upon establishing wealth early so that they could later pursue roles they would enjoy.

It ain’t all about money, is it?

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