Summary of Authentic Leadership

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Few companies got more marketing mileage out of their culture than Medtronic. Its former CEO, author Bill George, is proud of his company’s squeaky clean corporate record. Despite all the clichés he may muster, despite his occasional preachiness, perhaps no CEO has written a more lucid or insightful series of reflections on the challenge of managing a corporation in twentieth century America. Read this book and you will learn some obvious lessons and some new ones: that leaders should be honest, that they will be tempted to cut corners in pursuit of short term profits but really ought to resist that temptation, that devotion to customers is at least as important as devotion to shareholders (provided you make your numbers every quarter) and that managers at Enron and WorldCom did the wrong thing, but we can learn a lesson from them. acknowledges that Bill George may be as close as American executive ranks have come to producing a moral philosopher.

About the Author

Bill George is the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, a board member of Goldman Sachs, Target and Novartis, and Executive-in-Residence at Yale University. He was recognized as "Executive of the Year" by the Academy of Management and "Director of the Year" by the National Association of Corporate Directors. BusinessWeek cited him among its "Top 25 Managers."



The Need for Trust

American society owes a big debt of gratitude to the scoundrels at Enron and WorldCom. They called our entire corporate governance system into question. They scandalized millions with their misdeeds. Thieves and rogues have been part of every generation of capitalism in the United States, but this time around they don’t seem to be any different than most managers - just richer.

Enron and WorldCom showed us just how well justified today’s breakdown of trust in business is. Yet our economic system depends on trust. Is that now shaky ground? Alas, even the best corporate executives seem to lack conviction about ethics. Intel’s Andy Grove recently said, "I find myself embarrassed and ashamed to be a businessman." The malaise is so widespread that even a promising executive at Medtronic - a company very much unlike the ne’er do wells who have made so many headlines, a company that Bill George led and helped build - nonetheless found himself reluctant to tell people that he was an executive!

The Shareholder Situation

The problem isn’t managers, though. It’s shareholders. Enron and WorldCom proved to managers that today’s emphasis on shareholder...

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