Bill George is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. He is the author of four best-selling books: 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, True North, Finding Your True North, and Authentic Leadership. With co-author Doug Baker he recently published True North Groups.
Mr. George is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic. He joined Medtronic in 1989 as president and chief operating officer, was chief executive officer from 1991-2001, and board chair from 1996-2002. Earlier in his career, he was a senior executive with Honeywell and Litton Industries and served in the U.S. Department of Defense.
Mr. George currently serves as director of ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and the Mayo Clinic and also served on the board of Novartis and Target Corporation. He is currently a trustee of the World Economic Forum USA and Guthrie Theater and a former Trustee of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has served as board chair for Allina Health System, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, United Way of the Greater Twin Cities, and Advamed.
He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012. He has been named one of "Top 25 Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years" by PBS; "Executive of the Year-2001" by the Academy of Management; and "Director of the Year-2001-02" by the National Association of Corporate Directors. Mr. George has made frequent appearances on television and radio and his articles have appeared in Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and numerous publications.
Mr. George received his BSIE with high honors from Georgia Tech, his MBA with high distinction from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar, and honorary PhDs from Georgia Tech, Bryant University, and University of St. Thomas. During 2002-03 he was professor at IMD International and Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, and executive-in-residence at Yale School of Management.
He and his wife Penny reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Question: Can people of different faiths co-exist?
Bill George: I would say religious and ethic conflicts have had an enormous force in a very negative sense. I’m a Christian, but if you look at how many wars have been fought over Christianity – and we see today in the Muslim world, and the Jewish world – I’m very, very concerned about this. And I think it’s had a very negative force. And I think it’s a tragedy that people of faith, and people who are people of belief tend to separate today rather than use that to bring people together. And the fact that we’ve gone off in so many different directions, and we look at people of difference belief sets as evil. And some of this you can see in an African tribal setting; you can see here in the United States in various groups proselytizing for their set of beliefs, and actually looking for enemies and setting people off almost like Satan and the devil. And I think this has been extremely damaging in society. And it’s cost us many, many wars and you know, millions of lives.
Recorded on: 7/6/07