A Little Embarrassed
Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. Upon reflection, I’m a little embarrassed by a question I asked Bill George, author of the new and updated version of, Discover Your True North.
Bill is the former CEO of Medtronic and professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. During his 10 years at Medtronics the company grew from $1 billion to $60 billion in market capitalization.
The category of Drucker and Bennis:
In the forward to, “Discover Your True North,” David Gergen* asks who would carry on the work of Peter Drucker. “Soon it became apparent that the most obvious candidate was Warren Bennis…”
Warren Bennis passed on July 17, 2014. Gergen asks, “Well, who will now carry on Warren’s work?” Gergen answers his own question by writing, “With the publication of his sixth and most important book, Discover Your True North, we may well have our candidate: Bill George.
In essence, I asked Bill George about allowing David Gergen to put him in a category with Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis.
My goal, when I interview leaders, is gaining insights, not poking them. Bill’s response was simple and profound.
Bill George in his own words (2:55):
Tested by praise:
Praise is tougher to manage than adversity.
Adversity tends to humble us; praise, taken poorly, inflates us. There was no hesitation in Bill when he responded to my question. He candidly said that he was taken back and spent time thinking about Gergen’s comments.
In the end, there is only one leader-like response to praise and recognition, “Thank you.”
False humility is arrogance, but gratitude in the face of praise reflects humility.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to talk with Bill George. He left a lasting impression on me. I highly recommend, Discover Your True North.
What leaders have made a big impression on you? How?
Visit Bill’s website.
*David Gergen is an American political commentator and former presidential advisor who served during the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He is currently a Senior Political Analyst for CNN and a Professor of Public Service and Co-Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gergen is also the former Editor-at-Large of U.S. News and World Report. (Source)
What a great small snippet of conversation and insight. Not counting you Dan, I’d say the next leader that has impacted me directly and very profoundly would be Steve Bennett who made Intuit quite successful. I only wish he wrote publicly to share his amazing humility perfectly merged with strength and confidence in his moral direction. I’ve never personally witnessed a more sincere dedication to the servant leadership methodologies.
Of course my father, who trained managers at overseas Oil companies for years was my first big influence. I suspect he was a servant leader before the term was even commonly acknowledged.
Thanks James. I remember our conversation about your overseas experiences. It’s great how they had a positive impact on your life.
I think the people who most impact us have an attitude of wanting to serve us.
Who we are? Such a myriad of complexities, I’m not such we really ever know! The journey goes on and on, yet we still doubt ourselves from time to time, not sure if we ever reach the soul searching end of who we are! people judge us by their experiences good and bad, and “actions speak louder than words”, so they say! Having been embarrassed and wanting to bury my head in the sand has happened on occasion, more then once,I might add, knowing who we are helps us move onto higher mountains and better places on life’s journey. Not sure if we ever reach the plateau of truly knowing who we are, or who we think we are? I still like the cliche’ “be all you can be”!
Thanks Tim. I often say to people, “It’s great to be on the journey with you.” Arriving is overrated.
I’m thankful to be on the journey with you, Tim.
Hi Dan, I enjoy all of your daily posts. Actually my college-aged son recommended you to me and there is something here I find useful almost every day. I have met Bill and have a philanthropic relationship with several of the Medtronic leaders over time as they have been great supporters of our Twin Cities communities both as individuals and representing their corporation. Thank you does suffice–I think that’s why so many of our donors have a hard time accepting praise for doing something that is just a natural part of human makeup–to give back and make the world a better place. One comment about your post–Medtronic does not have an “s” at the end of its name. It is simply Medtronic.
Thanks Melinda. Your story and insights are encouraging.
Thanks for the heads up on the typo. I fixed it.
I get influenced by people who made differences to people to themselves. They come from different disciplines, roles and circumstances. When I see people creating impact on surroundings, it inspires me. I particularly inspired by people determination against odd circumstances. People with favourable circumstances hardly inspire me. When people bounce back, it provides tremendous power.
I do not derive inspiration when people try to boast about themselves. When they boast about their achievement, it looks fake irrespective of their designation. In fact designation does not inspire me much. One reason is that I know bit about how people get position in the organisation. I draw inspiration from nature, animals, and odd situations. Those who challenge and break the traditional thinking inspires me a lot.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. It seems that the struggle makes us inspirational. It’s an obvious truth, but, one that I think we would like to escape.
This also suggests that we should be willing to share the struggle with others. In order to not sound like whiners, we must celebrate what we are learning with humility.
Thanks for inspiring my thoughts about this important topic.
The people I know that I personally consider leaders tend to be the kinds of people that, for a lack of better words, don’t broadcast that they are leaders. Or, perhaps, more appropriately, don’t boast about their leadership prowess. Their qualities, however, tend to be similar across the board: celebrate successes, encourage and empower through failures (or opportunities), give credit where it’s rightly deserved, work and live beyond their own selves, and–as described–a refreshing and profound (when compared to the normal populace) sense of gratitude and kindness despite what may be going on. They’re the kind of people that barely fit all the digits of one hand, and the kind of people I remember onward, even if respective journeys won’t cross for quite a while.
Why, who am I, who should have precedence over what I do. The who drives what and what makes you a great executor. As a leader I must agree that until I know myself first, I do not have credibility. Sometimes the conflict between who and what makes it difficult in execution and that’s the reason why some companies falter and fail and and some grow multi fold. The growth of Medtronic from $ 1billion to $ 60 billion is a mammoth task and enviable, that’s not possible without a strong leadership and stable character.By virtue of his leadership skills and traits, Bill George could achieve a huge growth in Balance sheet. that is not possible without understanding the needs of the people working for him and that is the leadership skill which is required now a days. We find some leaders still prefers to be cocoon and is ready to play second fiddle instead they shall come forward and raise the bar. I Have also seen some leaders who believe command and control philosophy and keep on giving the instructions as if they are the only knowledge and expert in the particular area of operation, in fact this kind of leaders does not encourage me instead they block the creativity and lead the people in a particular direction and thus kill the heterogeneous movement and development.they are also responsible in bringing the monotonous organizational culture and behavior and make the people dead. Such kind of leaders should be identified at beginning of the game before they are able to damage the creativity innovations and multi dimensional thinking. they block the growth of knowledge and believe imposing their thoughts as they sufferers from superiority complex and inferiority syndrome which many a times they are also not aware as they never thought on it. I have seen these kind of leaders generally and most of the time do not appreciate the achievement of others rather they are always keen and keep their eyes and ear open to listen their praise. we must be aware about such kind of persons and promote the real cause of the organization .