2009-03-11 / The Motley Fool

Great Leadership, by George

Fool's School

In our current economic environment, many are looking for companies helmed by great leaders. Tom Gardner, co-founder and CEO of The Motley Fool, recently discussed leadership with former Medtronic CEO Bill George, author of "True North" (Jossey-Bass, $30) and "Authentic Leadership" (Jossey-Bass, $20). George is worth hearing out, as he led Medtronic to a 60-times increase in its value during his 10-year tenure. He identifies five dimensions of an authentic leader:

• First, leaders must have a purpose. They must know why they want to lead and where they're going.

• They must practice and live their values every day — and not just the ones they articulate.

• They must lead with their hearts, not just their heads. Obviously, intellect is necessary, but George believes that having the heart is key: "This means having the passion for the work, having a real understanding of compassion for the people you work with, having a real deep understanding and empathy for your customers, and having the courage to make difficult decisions.

"When you think about it, passion, compassion, courage and empathy are all matters of the heart, not of the head. There are so many leaders who have been brilliant leaders but have failed because they failed in that dimension."

• George noted that many leaders have vast networks of superficial relationships, when they really need deeper networks, where there's "a sense of two-way commitment between the individuals."

• His fifth dimension is "having the selfdiscipline to get results."

George suggested that "anyone who wants to be can be a leader in their own way. … Maybe they wouldn't be the best CEO, but they certainly can lead in their own way. They can set the standards for other people, and they can demonstrate a certain level of enthusiasm and commitment that can cause other people to want to perform better. … Those that fail typically are ones who are trying to be something different than who they are. They come across as fake."

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