I recently finished reading the book, “True North” by Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic. It was a great learning experience because it relates directly to real life experiences and shares the wisdom of over 125 leaders with varied experiences. I started consolidating some profound notes and felt they had to be shared. Here we go!
True North is the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are 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. Discovering your True North takes a lifetime of commitment and learning.
* The difference with authentic leaders lies in the way they frame their stories. Their life stories provide the context for their lives, and through them they find their passion and inspiration to make an impact in the world.
* ..the worst thing people can do is to manage their careers with a career map…being flexible and venturesome in stepping up to unexpected opportunities..
* Your development as a leader is not a straight line to the top but a journey filled with many ups and downs.
Ann Fudge (Young & Rubicam CEO): “Don’t worry about the challenges. Embrace them. Go through them even if they hurt. Tell yourself, there is something to be learned from this experience. I may not fully understand it now, but I will later. It’s all part of life, and life is a process of learning. Every challenging experience develops your core of inner strength, which gets you through those storms. Nothing worth doing in life is going to be easy………Leadership is leaving something lasting, whether it is how you treat people or how you deal with a problem.”
Jeff Immelt (GE): “Nobody wants to be around somebody going through a low period. In times like that you’ve got to be able to draw from within. Leadership is one of these great journeys into your own soul.”
* The key to learning from failure is to avoid denial and be honest with yourself.
Mike Baker (Arthrocare): What matters is not how often you have been on the canvas, but whether you get up, how you get up, and what you learn from it.
* The role of leaders is not to get other people to follow them but to empower others to lead. They cannot elicit the best performance from their teams if they are in the game primarily for themselves. In the end, their self-centeredness keeps other people from leading.
* When you become a leader, your challenge is to inspire others, develop them, and create change through them…Only when leaders stop focusing on their personal ego needs are they able to develop other leaders.
* Your journey to leadership is likely to take many unexpected turns. Life is full of challenging situations, including ethical dilemmas, midcourse career changes or burnout, seemingly intractable interpersonal challenges with colleagues, marriage and family issues, failures and loneliness. At times, you may feel you are losing your way or have gotten off course..Getting back on track alone is very difficult. That is when you most need your support team.
* Have you defined what success means for you and for your life? Unless you have thought through the answer to that question, you are at risk of letting others define success for you or trying to keep up with their definitions of success.
Ann Moore, CEO of Time, Inc.: “Follow your compass and not your clock.”
Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon: …Achievement was less about getting all A’s and more about trying.”
Anne Mulcahy, ex Chair & CEO, Xerox: “I get things done by identifying with the people in the company and by trusting them. I care most about building a good team to lead the company.”
* Feelings of despair among leaders are quite common, but most do not have the courage to admit it. In times like these, you need the support of your colleagues.
Some of the things leaders do to gain the respect of their colleagues:
* Treating others as equals.
* Being a good listener.
* Learning from people.
* Sharing life stories.
Empowering people to lead:
* Showing up
Showing up at important events or at unexpected times means a great deal to people and enables them to see their leaders as real people.
* Engaging people
The most empowering leaders are those who engage a wide range of people. That means being with them face-to-face….and being open and vulnerable with them.
* Helping teammates
Merck CEO Roy Vagelos: “People love to have involvement of the leader. They feel you want to help them and are part of the solution.”
* Challenging Leaders
Often, the most empowering response is to challenge people’s ideas, to ask why they are doing something a particular way, and to help them sharpen their ideas through dialogue.
Most people want to be stretched in assignments that enable them to develop. The leader’s key is to sense when people are ready for such challenging experiences. Yet it is also important for your team to know that you will be there to support them if necessary. Just knowing you have support from your leaders if things go wrong is very empowering. It enables you to recognize that you will not be hung out to dry, so you can take on stretch goals and significant challenges without the fear..
* Aligning Around a Mission
Individuals usually have their own passions that drive them. If the leaders can demonstrate how they can fulfull their purpose while achieving the organization’s mission, the alignment can occur.
As you think about your leadership style and power, ask yourself these questions:
* Is your leadership style consistent with your leadership principle and values? Is it even inconsistent?
* How do you adapt your style to the circumstances facing you and to the capabilities of your teammates?
* How do you optimize the use of your power in leading others?
* If you simply adopt an organization’s normative style or try to emulate someone else’s style, your lack of authenticity will show through. Under pressure and stress, leaders tend to revert to their least attractive styles – from being highly directive or passive aggressive to completely withdrawn.
* Authentic leaders understand they need power to get things done, but they learn to use it in subtle ways. They prefer to persuade others to adopt their point of view or to build a consensus rather than forcing subordinates to go along with them. In so doing, they win trust, loyalty and support of their teammates. That in turn leads to better decisions and a higher level of commitment to shared goals.
* In leading, you must always understand the situation in which you are operating, as well as the performance imperative. You should also think carefully about the kind of relationship (dependent, independent, interdependent) you want to have with your teammates and what type of relationship will enable your team or organization to achieve its business imperatives.
You cannot find the fulfillment of leadership by observing leaders from the sidelines…You have no choice but to get in there and get your face marred by dust and sweat and blood. That is what life and leadership are about…The fleeting symbols of external gratification will vanish like the wind. What will remain are the memories.