Re: What inspires you?
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 inspires you?
Bill George: Making a difference in the world. Leaving a legacy or making a difference. Having an impact on the lives of other people, and feeling like, "Hey, my life has been worthwhile. I did have some modest impact on the people I encountered in this world." And leading a life of integrity and being true to what I believe in without compromising that in order to get ahead.
I look for lessons closest . . . from the people closest to me--from my wife, who is my partner, if you will; and from other leaders whom I've known and worked with. I have a men's group that I learn a lot from them. And a couples group, whom we've been meeting together--both of them--for more than 20 years. And so I certainly learned a lot. And also going back to great books and learning what others have learned over time. But how do we bring that forward into a current date context? And watching what other leaders are doing and trying to learn from them.
Question: Is there a book you look to for inspiration?
Bill George: You know all my life I've been interested in leaders. In part that was imprinted on me by my father, who thought he should have been a leader and never was. And so from a very early age, I was reading books on great leaders people like Abraham Lincoln, just a wide range of leaders. Everything I could get my hands on as a 7, 8, 9 year old boy.
Recorded on: Jul 7 2007
George tries to lead a life of integrity without compromising that in order to get ahead.
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