Book Review

True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

by Bill George, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2007, 288 pp., $29.95 hardcover

Finding one’s personal “true north” should be the mandatory first step for anyone contemplating an organizational leadership journey. Bill George, professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic, the world’s leading medical technology corporation, tells us what one must do to discover the compass necessary to take that step.

In True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, George shares his own journey and includes both his steps and missteps along with the journeys of 125 carefully selected subjects who were interviewed in depth by the author and his research colleagues.

George, assisted by Peter Sims of Stanford University, weaves the most compelling stories of leaders to help readers understand the journey authentic leaders must embark upon to discover their own authenticity and empower others to take leadership roles.

The stories are a mixture of successes and failures to illustrate and contrast what George describes as the authentic leaders who are “genuine people ... true to themselves and to what they believe” and those leaders who upon close inspection are inauthentic and disingenuous.

The stories are inspiring and the lessons are both simple and powerful. Adding to the value of the book is a set of appendices providing 11 sets of exercises to complement each chapter. This book aligns with the latest works of Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Michael Fullan, Jim Collins and Warren Bennis. It opens with comments from Bennis and David Gergen, two of the book’s interview subjects.

This book belongs on the top shelf of any superintendent’s leadership collection, placed there after it is read cover to cover.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, chair of education leadership and counseling department, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.