True North

I have just finished reading the book ‘True North’ by Bill George. This is a general leadership book however considering the current state of flux in teaching and constant external pressures it is well worth a read and applicable to educational leaders.

George describes ‘True North’ as “the internal compass that guides you successfully though life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point- your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life.”

The novel talks about authentic leadership and defines the five dimensions that authentic leaders have:

  • Pursuing purpose with passion.
  • Practicing solid values.
  • Leading with heart.
  • Establishing enduring relationships.
  • Demonstrating self-discipline.

The diagram below shows the compass with the components to help you focus on your ‘true north’.

The following fundamental questions can be used with the compass:

  • Self-awareness: What is my story? What are my strengths and developmental needs?
  • Values: What are my most deeply held values? What principles guide my leadership?
  • Motivations: What motivates me? How do I balance internal and external motivations?
  • Support Team: Who are the people I can count on to guide and support me along the way?
  • Integrated Life: How can I integrate all aspects of my life and find fulfillment?

There are some definitions that are helpful in understanding the model:

Values – The relative importance of the things that matter in your life.
Leadership Principles – A set of standards used in leading others, derived from your values. Principles are values translated into action.
Ethical Boundaries – The limits placed on your actions, based on your standards of ethical behavior.

Bill George explains the important of maintaining balance in your life. This is done through the analogy of buckets and explains you must spend time on all quadrants.

There are also a number of quotes. There is one from John Donahoe, President of eBay:

Leadership is a journey, not a destination.
It is a marathon, not a sprint.
It is a process, not an outcome.

Another that resonated is by Jaime Irick, General Electric:

When you become a leader , your challenge is to inspire others, develop them, and create change through them.
You’ve got to flip that switch and understand that it’s about serving the folks on your team.

I think the most important quote is from Mark Reynoso (Belkin Corporation), it is about maintaining perspective.

If I have a hundred balls coming at my and can only grab only two, I can stress out ab out missing ninety-eight balls or accept the reality I can grab only two – and make sure those are the most important ones..

I would recommend this book as it is a quick read and is full of common sense advice to put things in perspective.

The author’s website is here.

Categories: Leadership