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Last months column, Leadership, Part 1, reviewed some of the main points made in the recently published book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, by Harvard professor Bill George and his team. This month, well wrap up with more observations.

Professor Bill George and his collaborator, Peter Sims, found that there is an enormous vacuum in leadership today, yet there is no shortage of capable people. All these potential leaders need is an opportunity to show what they can do. But unfortunately we often chose our leaders for the wrong reasons – charisma instead of character, style rather than substance, image instead of integrity – and thats why we have the kinds of problems which the media delights in covering these days. Interestingly, highly intelligent people dont necessarily make effective leaders either; personal, inner qualities are much more important. Emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and be comfortable with oneself, is more valuable than a high I.Q.

Leaders need to be well grounded in reality. Weaker leaders who focus primarily on personal and external gratification develop a sense of entitlement which causes them to lose their way. Authentic leaders have to walk the talk consistently, serving as an example to those who report to them.

Leaders are passionate about their beliefs, inspiring others to follow. Subordinate development and empowerment are important to them. Effective leaders cant be easily knocked off track, although maintaining their motivation and values – their True North – can sometimes be difficult. But they also know that they shouldnt be there if their values are not consistent with the people with whom they are working, both above and below them.

Those without early character-forming experiences are often not well prepared for harsh challenges later in their career. Being knocked around a few times is actually beneficial; what is learned from any difficult experience is much more important than that dismal event itself. Authentic leaders are not afraid to take risks.

In his epilogue, Prof. George recounts that he ended one of his Harvard MBA leadership classes with this excerpt from The Man in The Arena, part of a 1910 speech by President Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, Paris, France:

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

As Bill George points out, if a leader isnt willing to take risks, he or she will never know the triumph of high achievement. One cannot experience the fulfillment of leadership by observing leaders from the sidelines, nor by being a brilliant observer from the press box. Authentic leaders have no choice but to get in the arena and get their faces marred by dust, sweat and blood.

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