True North: A book review by Bob Morris

True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace
Bill George and Zach Clayton
Wiley (August 2022)

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. This is the “Emerging Leader Edition” of a business classic first published in 2007 for which Bill George and Zach Clayton “interviewed 50 leaders with an emphasis on the new generation of leaders.” That is, executives who have made the big shift from “command and control” to “empowerment with personal accountability.” The 50 interviews are in addition to the 172 leaders who were interviewed for previous versions of True North.

George: “in this book, we describe the leadership principles I learned during my career, starting as an individual contributor, then growing into a leader, and eventually rising to the CEO of Medtronic…As a note, I’ll use the pronoun ‘I’ when sharing personal stories or reflections. ‘We’ reflects the points that Zach and I believe are essential to your development.”

Effective use of direct address in the Introduction immediately establishes a rapport with the reader. George and Clayton share everything they have learned about the process by which one becomes a leader. The material in the book is best viewed as a calling to emerging leaders of the next generation — Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z — “to step up and lead authentically by discovering your True North and following your North Star to make this world a better place.”

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of George and Clayton’s coverage:

o Emerging leaders (Pages 1-3, 5-6, and 10-12)
o Characteristics of authentic leaders (5-8)
o Your Life Story (15-36)
o Crucibles (37-58)
o Leading without True North (59-78)

o Five Archetypes of Derailing: Imposters, Rationalizers, Glory Seekers, Loners, and Shooting Stars (64-73)
o Self-Awareness (81-101)
o Developing Self-Compassion (94-98)
o Finding Your Sweet Spot (133-138)
o Setting Ground Rules (144-149)

o Servant Leadership (163-175)
o Hero’s Journey to Leader’s Journey (166-171)
o North Star (177-198)
o Align Your Organization Around Purpose (183-186)
o Coaching (199-221)

o Align: Unite People Around a Common Vision (209-212)
o Navigate Today’s Challenges (223-224)
o Inclusive Leadership (225-243)
o Moral leaders (263-280)
o When Should Leaders Take on Public Issues? (269-277)

George and Clayton make brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices that include an “Idea in Brief” section at the conclusion of the thirteen chapters. Each consists of three parts: “Recap of the Main Idea,” “Questions to Ask,” and “Practical Suggestions for Your Development.” This material intensifies a reader’s interaction with the text and also facilitates, indeed expedites frequent review later of key concepts. I presume to suggest that readers highlight key points, and, keep a lined notebook near at hand in order to record their own ideas, comments, questions, and page references as well as their responses to the end-of-chapter questions that George and Clayton pose.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out these:

Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive (1967)
Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader (1989/2009)
George’s Authentic Leadership (2003) and True North (2007)
David Gergen’s Hearts Touched with Fire (2022)



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