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February 2011


Finding Your True North: A Program to Discover Your Authentic Leadership


by Bill George, et al. (Jossey-Bass, 2008)


What are the big take-aways?


Bill George and his colleagues believe that leaders who know their true passions and strengths are better able to build trust and motivate others toward a common goal, and thus get better performance outcomes from themselves and their teams. Indeed, “[w]ith authentic leadership, the potential for organizations to compete and to excel is unlimited” (page xxi). Moreover, authentic leaders have more satisfying careers and lead more integrated lives. The authors define authenticity on page xxi of the Introduction:


To be an authentic leader requires you to be genuine and to have a passion for your purpose; you must practice your values, lead with your heart, develop connected relationships, and have the self-discipline to get results. You must stay on course of your True North in the face of the most severe challenges, pressures and seductions.


They say that the way to become an authentic leader is to undertake a lifelong personal development journey. This workbook offers an honest, straightforward and do-able program for helping a reader to discover his or her authenticity and put it to use.


Why did I like it?


Not only do I share Bill George’s belief that leadership development is a form of personal development, but I also agree that leadership growth is rooted in the narrative – or life story – of the leader. This workbook begins with exercises designed to assist the reader in articulating the development path s/he has already been on, and continues with exercises to support the reader in being intentional and authentic as his or her story unfolds into the future. It includes examples of why leaders sometimes get off track and how they can get back on course, as well as how to leverage life’s challenges as transformative experiences that strengthen leadership purpose and potency. It concludes with practical advice both for deepening one’s own capacity for leadership and integration, as well as for empowering others to do the same.


In what situations would this be useful?


Every leader could use this program at any stage in their career. In my own experience, and in the experiences of my coaching clients, I’ve found this workbook to be particularly useful in difficult change situations. (Coaches call these situations “breakdowns.” George calls them “crucibles.”) The book offers exercises and tools that help leaders put themselves in the powerful position of (re-)claiming authorship of their story when something significant in their personal or professional lives didn’t go as planned (a crisis at work, loss of job, divorce, illness, etc.) and made them feel out of control. In short, this book shows the reader how to learn from life’s most challenging experiences in order to emerge as an even more authentic, self-aware and effective leader.


What other resources might “pair” well with it?


I also highly recommend Bill George’s True North (John Wiley & Sons, 2007), on which this workbook is based.


If you like Finding Your True North but want to keep shopping for alternative personal leadership development programs, check out Becoming a Resonant Leader by McKee, Boyatzis and Johnston (Harvard Business Press, 2008). It is a workbook that covers a lot of the same material, but with a different theoretical orientation (emotional intelligence) and organized quite differently. It is an offshoot of Boyatzis and McKee’s Resonant Leadership (reviewed earlier in the Leadership Library).


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