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: What impact does your work have on the world?
Bill George: I would like to have some impact on the leaders of the future. And I'm mentoring about four dozen young people right now, and I have a lot of students at Harvard. I also have, I hope, some modest impact on the people who are already in varied leadership positions of great responsibility to try to help people understand that leadership is not about you, and about creating followers; but about building society and addressing societal problems, and making contributions to that. And oh yes. You do make money doing that. If you do that well, you make a lot more. So I'm certainly not against people who are successful making money; but I'd like to think I've had some contribution in giving some clarity about what 21st century leadership is all about, and how we can build more leaders; and get away from the succession we have of leadership from the top and start realizing that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of leaders in every organization just waiting for the opportunity. And why aren't we giving it to them? Why don't we empower them to step up and lead? And companies that do that create far greater results over the long term.
Recorded on: July 6 2007