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 should be the big issues of the 2008 election?
Bill George: Can we elect a leader who will tell us the truth, and not say one thing and do another? I have a lot of trouble forgiving leaders that blatantly do not tell us the truth; and I think the American public has lost trust in its political leaders because people don't tell the truth. They say what the people want to hear. One day they're pro-choice; the next day they're pro-life. One day they say we're gonna fight terrorism; then they conflate terrorism and a bad leader in another country like Iraq. And they don't tell us the truth, and I think the American . . . Everywhere I give a speech, the question always comes up: Can we have an authentic leader run for president, run for senator, run for the House? There are good people there; but I think we've turned off a lot of good people from getting into public life. And I'm just hopeful that in 2008, that maybe somebody can slip through and tell us the truth, and then govern in such a way that is consistent without selling their soul. I think that's a tragedy that so much of that is going on.
Recorded on: 7/6/07