Top chiefs lead with purpose and personality. How their inner traits determine outward direction:
• Blaze a trail. Genuine leaders develop their best selves without copying someone else.
“If you create a false persona or wear a mask, people will quickly see through you,” said “Discover Your True North” author Bill George. The book follows up his 2007 title, “True North,” for which George interviewed 125 CEOs.
The new release returns to those leaders and adds 48 voices.
The common thread among top chiefs?
“Without exception, these leaders believed being authentic made them more effective and successful,” he told IBD.
• Learn to give. George was determined to rise, and would eventually become CEO of medical device firm Medtronic (NYSE:MDT).
Back in college, he was overlooked for the leadership roles he pursued. One day, seniors pulled George aside and chided him for being more interested in getting ahead than in helping others. After turning his focus outward, he gained leadership credibility and was elected fraternity president.
• Look inward. “The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself,” George said.
He dug into the early lives of CEOs to understand how they resolved their personal demons.
“Once you are fully comfortable with who you are — and feel good in your own skin — leading others authentically becomes much easier,” he said.
• Identify strengths. Playing football and baseball as a youth taught Dick Kovacevich to value individual talent — long before his stint as CEO of Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).
“If you had 11 quarterbacks on the field, you would lose every game. Just as quarterbacks are overrated, CEOs are too,” he said.
• Develop mettle. Several CEOs faced tough times on their way up.
“Many cited these experiences, along with the people who helped them develop, as primary reasons for their success,” George said.
Before becoming CEO of General Electric (NYSE:GE), Jeffrey Immelt faltered in the firm’s plastics division and missed a profit target by $30 million.
Of the tough year, Immelt said:
“In times like that you’ve got to be able to draw from within. Leadership is one of those great journeys into your own soul.”
• Seek growth. Everyone faces difficult patches.
“Embrace them,” said Ann Fudge, former CEO of marketing firm Young & Rubicam. “Go through them even if they hurt. Tell yourself: There is something to be learned from this experience. You may not fully understand it now, but you will later.”
• Show yourself. Your identity should be consistent wherever you are, so develop and wear one face.
“Costumes are for Halloween,” said Brian Mohr, co-founder and managing partner of leadership search firm Y Scouts. “In my line of work, I want to offer a leader who is authentic and not some impostor version of who they really are.”
This article was originally posted 8/14/15 on Investor’s Business Daily