Bill George
Professor of Management, Harvard Business School

Re: What do you do?

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Leadership is about fidelity to your life story.

Bill George

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: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do for a living?

Bill George: Well I’m a business person that’s now gone into academia.  I was in business for 32 years with three major companies, the last of which was Medtronic where I was the Chairman and CEO, and there for a total of 13 years.  And I intentionally capped my time as CEO to 10 years, because I wanted to do some other things in life.  And I got to . . .  I took a working sabbatical, went to Switzerland, taught at two institutions there – a business school IMD and a federal polytechnic – and I got fascinated with teaching and writing, and then came back to my alma mater at Harvard after a short stop at Yale.  And since that time, I’ve developed a deep passion in the last five years in trying to have an impact on the future generation of business and non-profit leaders.  And the two books I’ve written have been on that subject, most recently the “True North” is aimed at trying to show people of all ages how they can develop into authentic leaders.  And that’s what my real passion is these days.

Recorded on: Jul 7 2007