Monthly Archives: July 2016

Why I Am Endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States


Many of my most thoughtful colleagues still seem torn about the upcoming presidential election. They are disgusted and frightened by Donald Trump, but uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton. However, I find myself in a very different place.

Politically, I am an independent who has voted in like measure for Republicans and Democrats. After graduating from business school, I worked in the administrations of Presidents Johnson and Nixon. Like many of my colleagues, I am a fiscal conservative and social progressive who has often struggled to find candidates to support that are aligned with this philosophy.

In this election the choice between Clinton and Trump is clear: one is fully qualified to be our next President, and the other has neither the experience nor the temperament to be President. For this reason I am enthusiastically endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. Let me explain my rationale.

Clinton will be a terrific leader for our country, and will rebuild confidence in our nation for all its people. As several major political leaders, including President Obama, have said, she is the most qualified and most experienced person ever to run for president. She has the intellect, temperament, wisdom, and leadership ability to bring us together as a nation and lead us forward. I trust her fully to use her experience to make the right decisions and always put the interests of the American public ahead of her own needs. She will also unleash fresh energy from new faces or those who have been sitting on the sidelines, dismayed by the dysfunctional of government.

Having been in public service for twenty-five years, her actions have been scrutinized in every possible way. This has caused her to be guarded in public. As she noted in her acceptance speech, “I have been in public service for twenty-five years. I realize I am more comfortable with service than being public.” That is not unusual for politicians seeking our nation’s highest office. Former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan were often reticent publicly, as is President Obama.

No doubt Clinton has made mistakes, as she did with her private email server, but which of us has not made significant mistakes in our careers that we have come to regret? The issue for politicians like Clinton is that everything you do is examined with a microscope in the public eye. In contrast, Clinton’s opponent has never held a public or elected position, so he has no record of service to examine.

A majority of Americans are looking for change in electing our next president, but there is no agreement on what that change might look like. In my experience there are two ways to create change: blow the system up and start over, or work diligently for change from within. There is ample evidence that the former cannot work in the U.S., especially under the U.S. Constitution with its proven system of balance of power. The French tried it in 1789, leading to a long period of chaos. The Germans tried it in 1933 when the Nazis seized power and Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor, leading to the most violent war in history.

Real change is genuinely hard work and must come from within. This is where Clinton excels. Everyone who has worked with her – Republicans as well as Democrats – has come to admire her work ethic and her ability to create positive action. She realizes changes by working with all sides and across the aisle to reach compromise agreements that serve the greater good. This kind of change is never glamorous or exciting, but it is the only way to make meaningful progress. Clinton’s record of creating improvements domestically in education, health care, human rights and equality for all is exceptional.

In international affairs presidents have even greater latitude to make monumental decisions with lasting consequences. Not infrequently, presidents who lack deep knowledge of foreign affairs can make major mistakes, as John Kennedy did with the Bay of Pigs, Lyndon Johnson did in escalating U.S. troops in Vietnam, and George W. Bush made in invading Iraq. Government leaders around the world – friend and foe alike – rely on the stability of the U.S. to deliver on its long-term commitments. In large measure this is why Republicans and Democrats have been unified in their international positions since the 1940s. It is this unity that has made America the greatest nation in the world.

In this realm Clinton stands out even more. She will use her leadership, diplomacy and negotiating skills to advance U.S. interests around the world. She knows every world leader personally and can gauge and influence their actions. In turn, they know her to be both tough and trustworthy – two essential qualities for dealing with both friends and foes. She will not flinch from confronting our foes, nor fail to honor our long-standing commitments to our allies.

Being president is not a one-person job. While the president may be the person constantly in the spotlight, it takes thousands of exceptional leaders to lead this nation. With Clinton’s long history of working with the most dedicated U.S. public servants, I expect she will appoint a talented team of experienced veterans combined with dedicated new faces across the political and geographic spectrum that represents America’s great diversity. This is what capable leaders like Clinton do so well.

Of particular importance in this election are the Millennials and their involvement with national affairs. Clinton’s biggest challenge between now and November will be to get the Millennials engaged to focus their enormous passions on making America a better place to live and work for their generation and those that come behind.

For all these reasons I endorse Hillary Clinton for President. I urge each of you to support her and get behind her campaign. She is the right leader for turbulent times. As President, Hillary Clinton will make America even greater.

FORTUNE: 5 Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn From Brexit

brexitBritain’s leaders were out of sync with its voters. Could the same be happening at your company?

The U.K.’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union shocked the world. The day before the vote, London odds makers gave 80% chance that Remain would be victorious, as polls revealed a 10-point edge over the Leave campaign.
What caused the politicians and “smart money” to misjudge the electorate so badly? Elites underestimated the anger and despair of Britain’s working class. They also discounted the apathy of the millennial generation, which favored Remain but only 36% voted.
The U.S. faces similar issues: working class anger, hostility toward the federal government, and a desire to blame problems on “the other”—Hispanic people, Muslims, African-Americans, and China. These emotions translate into fears of immigration, globalization, free trade, and technology—all themes that fan flames of distrust in government and the establishment.

American business leaders who ignore their workers’ feelings do so at their own peril. Unhappy employees lead to disengaged workplaces and mediocre results. Here are five lessons they can learn from Brexit to apply immediately in their businesses:
Focus on your workforce first and stock market second


As the near-term pressures from short-term investors have accelerated, business leaders have engaged in financial engineering such as stock buybacks, cost cutting, and spinoffs. As a consequence, companies aren’t investing in their employees. Health care, perquisites, and other benefits are being cut back, employee training programs shelved, and support for creativity and innovation diminished, while the gap in compensation between rank-and-file workers and executives has widened dramatically. With employee cutbacks, fewer people are being asked to carry a larger share of the workload.
According to Gallup polls, employee engagement scores have dropped to 30% or lower. More people are simply showing up to pick up a paycheck, while their passion for the business and commitment to pleasing customers has waned.
To turn around these attitudes, business leaders need to stop trying to please the stock market – which will never be satisfied, no matter how strong the results – and engage and inspire their front-line people. Instead of cutting employee costs, they should be investing in them through training, added compensation incentives, attractive healthcare, and by creating an empowering culture.
Support front-line employees who grow the business, instead of adding corporate bureaucracy that makes work more difficult


All too often, managers see their job as controlling employees throughout the enterprise. Finance groups focus on cost-cutting, risk-averse lawyers make the company impossible to do business with, and human resources casts judgment on employees. As a result, corporate departments at many businesses have grown while the rest of the organization has shrunk, causing resentment.
Meanwhile, top executives spend most of their time in internal meetings poring over numbers rather than listening to employees in research labs, offices, and factories.
Corporate staffs in multi-business companies should be shrunk dramatically in size and refocused on helping employees do their jobs and making it easier for customers to do business. Accenture, with its 275,000 employees, is a good example of this approach. It has no true corporate headquarters, and its minimal corporate staff is dispersed around the world and focused on supporting customers.
Spend one-third of your time with customers


Whether you’re in retail, health care, IT, or financial services, there is no greater place for learning what is going on than being in the marketplace with customers. When I was at Medtronic, I observed more than 700 procedures in 12 years; it was the greatest learning opportunity I ever had. Leaders who apply all five senses to customer interactions learn more first-hand than they do from reading reports or looking at PowerPoint presentations.
When he became CEO of Unilever  UL 0.32% , Paul Polman asked his leaders 10 questions to see how much time they were spending with customers. Their responses were so embarrassing that Polman challenged them to refocus their organizations on customers. Similarly, Anne Mulcahy kept Xerox  XRX 1.81%  out of bankruptcy by skipping the endless meetings at headquarters in favor of riding with field salespeople to stem the tide of customer defections. This type of customer engagement signals to the entire organization that the company puts customers first.
Promote transparency internally and externally


In today’s world of social media and smartphones, transparency is not only the right choice – it is the only choice. Employees expect their leaders to keep them informed about what is going on, no matter how negative the news. When they are not treated with transparency, they turn to external sources and internal rumors for information, which they perceive is more timely and accurate than internal communication.
Following a 2015 layoff, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh wrote to employees: “Remember this is not my company, and this is not our investors’ company. This company is all of ours, and it’s up to all of us where we go from here.” Hsieh’s communications are authentic, transparent, and informal.
Former Ford  F 2.94%  CEO Alan Mulally used weekly business performance reviews (BPR) to create transparency across the organization to turn around the troubled automaker. In these meetings, Mulally dove into details deeper than any Ford executive had ever done. Honest conversations helped to heal Ford’s politically charged, blame-focused culture. Rather than frowning on problems, Mulally used them to come up with solutions.
Work with the government, not against it, to make sensible reforms.
Many business leaders see government as an enemy, and send out legions of lobbyists to influence laws in their favor. Properly constructed, regulations can help protect against defective or rogue products in the marketplace and ensure customer and employee safety.

Brexit should be a wakeup call for all business leaders. The vote showed Britain’s leaders were out of sync with its voters. Could the same thing be happening with employees in your company? Are you involved on the front lines with your employees and customers every day, or are you holed up at headquarters?
The answer may well determine your company’s success.
Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.

This article was originally published on on 7/8/16.

HBS: The Truth About Authentic Leaders


The debate over which form of leadership works best seems settled, in my view. Most leading companies globally are focusing on developing “authentic leaders” within their ranks. Executive courses at Harvard Business School in authentic leadership development are oversubscribed and expanding every year. As the Harvard Business Review declared in January 2015, “Authenticity has emerged as the gold standard for leadership.”

In 2003, our book Authentic Leadership proposed a new kind of leader, whose character was the ingredient that mattered most—more than characteristics or style. We also challenged older models of leadership, including the “great man theory” and competency-based leadership models. Previous generations of business people spent more time trying to “market” themselves as leaders, rather than undertaking the transformative work that leadership development requires.

Critiques of authenticity

But recently three leading scholars at Insead, Stanford, and Wharton challenged the concept of authentic leadership. Like all movements—Harvard University Professor Michael Porter’s famous five forces of strategy comes to mind—growing acceptance of an idea often attracts contrarian critiques, which ultimately are healthy in clarifying our understanding.

In Leadership BS, Stanford’s Jeff Pfeffer says, “the last thing a leader needs to be at crucial moments is authentic.” Insead’s Herminia Ibarra adds, “We have to find a way to fake it till we become it.” The most recent salvo comes from Wharton’s Adam Grant, who wrote in the June 5 New York Times, “’Be yourself’ is actually terrible advice… Nobody wants to see your true self.”


While these writings have garnered plenty of press attention, their critiques of authentic leaders reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of authenticity. Webster defines authenticity as “real or genuine; not copied or false; true and accurate.” It comes from the Greek word for author, which led author Warren Bennis to say, “You are the author of your life.”

Ibarra postulates two types of authentic leaders: “low self-monitors” and “high self-monitors.” Low self-monitors tend to say whatever comes to mind, whereas high self-monitors watch carefully what they say for its impact on others. This distinction creates a false dichotomy because low self-monitoring is the opposite of being authentic, and is a sign of immaturity and insensitivity to the feelings of others. Leaders who do this, such as telling a colleague, “I’d like to go to bed with you,” as Grant proposes, are anything but authentic.

Authentic leaders monitor their words and behaviors carefully to be attuned to their audiences and to enroll their colleagues and teammates. They do so because they are sensitive to the impact their words and actions have on others, not because they are “messaging” the right talking points.

Ibarra’s second critique of authentic leaders is that they are often locked into a rigid sense of themselves, much like their immature teenage selves. This is the antithesis of authentic leaders, who are constantly developing themselves to increase self-awareness and improve relationships with others. They don’t hide behind their flaws; instead, they seek to understand them. This lifelong developmental process is similar to what musicians and athletes go through in improving their capabilities.

How leaders develop their authenticity

Rather than trying to redefine what it means to be authentic, research and leadership development programs should focus on how leaders develop their authenticity. Being authentic as a leader is hard work and takes years of experience in leadership roles. No one can be authentic without fail; everyone behaves inauthentically at times, saying and doing things they will come to regret. The key is to have the self-awareness to recognize these times and listen to close colleagues who point them out.

The essence of authentic leadership is emotional intelligence, or EQ, as articulated by Daniel Goleman. People with high IQs and low EQs can hardly be called authentic leaders. In contrast to IQ, which basically does not change in one’s adult lifetime, EQ can be developed. The first and most important step on this journey is gaining self-awareness.

In preparing to write Discover Your True North, my research team and I conducted in-depth interviews with 172 authentic leaders. This research highlighted the vital role of self-awareness in leadership development. Here are some recommended steps people undertake to develop a deeper understanding of themselves in order to become authentic leaders:

  • Explore their life stories and their crucibles in order to understand who they are. As my HBS colleague Lakshmi Ramarajan says, the process of learning, growing, and developing an integrated self is a process of construction and meaning–making. As leaders explore their life stories and crucibles, and process their experiences, they develop deeper understanding of themselves and feel increasingly comfortable being authentic. This is a lifelong journey in which we are always discovering the next layer, much like peeling an onion. As leaders discover their truth, their True North, they gain confidence and resilience to face difficult situations.
  • Engage in reflection and introspective practices by taking time every day to step back from the 24/7 world, turn off all electronics, and reflect on what is most important to them. This can be done through introspective practices that are growing rapidly in popularity, such as meditation, mindfulness, prayer, long walks to clear one’s mind, or simply sitting quietly and reflecting. The key here is set aside preoccupation with task lists, iPhones, and the latest news in order to reflect privately. In this way the urgent does not take precedence over the important in one’s life, and leaders examine how they are living their lives and engaging with the world around them.
  • Seeking honest feedback from colleagues, friends, and subordinates about themselves and their leadership. One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to understand how other people see them, which is often quite different than how they want to be seen. To gain greater understanding of how they are coming across, authentic leaders obtain real-time feedback by listening to their “truth tellers,” who give them candid critiques about their leadership. Those that surround themselves with loyal sycophants, who only tell them how well they are doing rather than being brutally honest, risk going off track. Leaders also gather feedback through regular 360 degree reviews from peers and subordinates. The qualitative comments shared in 360 reviews can be of great benefit if leaders take them to heart, and genuinely try to change.
  • Understand their leadership purpose so they can align people around a common purpose. Purpose defines the unique gifts people bring to leadership challenges, through which they can align others with their purposes in order to create positive impact. This is far more important than focusing entirely on achieving success in metrics like money, fame and power, yet ultimately produces sustained success in those metrics as well.
  • Become skilled at tailoring their style to their audiences, imperatives of the situation, and readiness of their teammates to accept different approaches. There are times when leaders have to make difficult decisions that are sure to displease people, and they’ll need to give tough feedback. At other times they need to be inspiring, good coaches, and consensus builders. These flexible styles aren’t inauthentic if they come from a genuinely authentic place. In this sense leaders’ styles become the outward manifestation of their authenticity. As leaders gain experience and develop greater self-awareness, they become more skillful in adapting their style, without compromising their character.

What is needed now is a deeper understanding of how leaders become authentic, as they navigate the practical dilemmas and paradoxes they face. For example, Karissa Thacker’s recent book The Art of Authenticity takes authenticity to a deeper level by exploring topics like relational transparency and honest conversations, making peace with paradox, and seeking the truth.

My colleagues at HBS are working on the challenges of being authentic, such as how and when to be vulnerable, cognitive distortions, making meaning of who we are by integrating the constructed self with the true self—or True North—and going from purpose to impact. These are fertile areas for research by academics and in-company leadership experts.

Rather than creating false postulations about authentic leaders, we need to focus on how we can enable leaders to become more authentic, and give them the tools to do so. In this way authentic leaders will be able to create better lives for everyone they serve.


Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.



This content was originally posted on Harvard Business School Working Knowledge on 7/6/16.