Book Review: Authentic Leadership

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Authentic Leadership
by Bill George

Jossey-Bass ©2003
240 pages

A Better Way to Create Lasting Value

According to former Medtronic CEO Bill George, when leaders are dedicated stewards and lead in an authentic manner, they build long-lasting organizations that do great good for people and make a giant difference in the world. To help leaders move past the greed that has seduced many others into sacrificing the future of their organizations and the people they lead, George has written a guide that describes a better plan for leading companies. In Authentic Leadership, he offers a way to lead that builds enduring organizations and benefits everyone who has a stake in a company, including customers, employees, and shareholders. He writes that his goal is to show leaders that embracing authentic leadership can reward them with the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of customers, providing opportunities for employees, and generating superior long-term returns for shareholders.

George begins his book with a special thanks to Enron and Arthur Andersen. He explains that the depth of their misconduct shocked the world and awakened us all to the reality that business was headed toward self-destruction. Although regulators and lawmakers have crafted a few new laws to close loopholes, George writes that integrity, stewardship and sound governance are deeper issues that must be addressed by leaders themselves.

Building Enduring Organizations

His prescription for better leadership is authentic leaders of the highest integrity who are committed to building enduring organizations, who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society. Authentic Leadership offers a fresh approach to business leaders that has been “refined in the crucible of real-world experience,” while presenting the lessons George learned while dealing with tough issues throughout his career as a successful leader.

In the first part of his book, George describes authentic leaders and how they develop. He writes that they genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership and are more interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference than they are in power, money or prestige for themselves. They are as guided by passion and compassion as they are by their logical minds.

To develop authenticity, George writes that each leader must develop his or her own leadership style that is consistent with his or her personality and character. The authenticity of the leader is more important than the style with which the leader leads. Authenticity means accepting one’s faults as well as using one’s strengths. George writes that authentic leaders demonstrate these five qualities:

1. Authentic leaders understand their purpose.

2. They practice solid values.

3. They lead with heart.

4. They establish connected relationships.

5. They demonstrate self-discipline.

In the second part of Authentic Leadership, George reveals the ways authentic leaders build authentic companies. He writes that an authentic company is guided by a mission and vision, and practices a consistent set of values while empowering its employees to serve customers with innovative products and superior service. Being disciplined enough to produce results for all stakeholders is also a crucial part of an authentic company.

The Homology Process

George writes that another ingredient in the recipe for creating an authentic company is homology. This is the process by which the leader and the organization interact and grow from interacting with each other. Through interactions with the company, the leader becomes more effective in his or her role. As a result, the organization responds to his or her leadership.

Authentic Leadership also describes how authentic companies compete more effectively in the market and how authentic leaders look beyond the bottom line when pursuing a mission, living by one’s values, and satisfying stakeholders. George writes that authentic companies that want to succeed for many decades to come must have a sound system of governance and build in leadership succession for several generations. Authentic leaders must also play a role in the greater society by tackling public policy issues and addressing challenging societal problems. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

Authentic Leadership reveals the time-tested leadership lessons learned by an important leader during his lifetime and productive tenure at the helm of a leading medical technology company, and shows leaders how they can create similarly astounding results. Filled with detailed stories from George’s personal and business life, Authentic Leadership offers leaders a better way out of the current corporate crisis. ~

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