People respect you as a leader if you cut the rhetoric and urge them to examine their core. I have experienced it first hand as I move with my client’s staff. They all had a life story to tell. I’ve noticed those stories morphing into who they are and defining their style at work. Haven’t we wondered why each of us has our own signature style? There you go. We all have a different life story that defines our style.
Then I read this interview with Bill George, Ex-CEO of Medtronic and co-author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. What we have in True North is a further development of George’s concept of `authentic leadership’ but also a rigorous, revealing, and rewarding analysis of what George and Sims learned during their interviews of more than 100 leaders. The title to this post is an anecdote from the book where Ann Moore of Time Inc. comforts Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon products when she had been passed over for the CEO job. In Ann’s words, “It’s not important that you’re CEO by 40. Life is long. You need to make sure this is the company you want to be at.”
I was tempted to cite some exemplary “crucibles” provided in that interview (and in the book) but have decided not to because each should be presented within the context of the lively narrative. For me, some of the most interesting and valuable material in this book focuses on coping with severe hardships of one kind or another. I’ve had a ton of that in my life. I had coped with it all and still do. Long ago, Jack Dempsey observed that “champions get up when they can’t.” Authentic leaders must first become authentic people and, more often than not, that process requires experiencing and then overcoming being “knocked down.”
In Bill’s own words “…. An individual’s leadership is defined by his or her life story. In the 125 interviews we conducted, each person kept going back to their life stories as defining for them. From those life stories, you could see the clear link to their passions”. Read and enjoy.