Discover Your True North: Quotes About Top-Notch Leadership

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Discover Your True North" by Bill George. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the best Discover Your True North quotes? Why is it hard to be a leader not only for others but for yourself?

Being a leader is much more than just telling people what to do and expecting results. It’s building mutual respect between every worker at your company and finding a balance between life and work.

Below we’ll look at four Discover Your True North quotes so you can reach your full potential as a leader.

Quotes From Discover Your True North

What’s the common thread among the world’s most successful business leaders? In Discover Your True North, Bill George argues that it’s not about being the most talented, or the most charming person in the boardroom—it’s about being true to yourself and staying focused on your core priorities and values (what he calls your unique “True North”). 

After analyzing interviews with 48 international business leaders about their career journeys, George distills their most salient insights into simple guidelines that anyone can follow to become a leader in their organization: Work toward something you’re truly passionate about, optimize your leadership using introspection and feedback, and maintain a healthy personal life. George also describes common pitfalls that can distract leaders from their core purpose if they get caught up in the appeal of external rewards like money and fame. 

We’ll look at the best Discover Your True North quotes to get the main ideas.

The hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself.

George argues that you shouldn’t try too hard to keep your work life and personal life separate. This means that you shouldn’t have to put on a different persona or mask your personality at work, which will eventually exhaust you. Instead, George says to just be yourself, no matter where you are. He also recommends being honest with your colleagues about what’s important to you, even if that means bringing your personal life into work conversations sometimes. 

For example, when Donahoe had a scheduling conflict with taking his kids to school and meeting with important clients, he chose to be upfront with his boss about needing to make a change. Instead of being afraid to have an honest conversation with his boss or sacrificing his family’s needs, he discussed it openly. To his surprise, his clients and boss respected him more for being clear about his priorities and found a way to work around the conflict. 

Rather than be the powerful out-front leader, she was quietly leading from behind by encouraging individual members of this peer network to step up and lead.

George’s next piece of advice for strong leadership is to enable your team members to do their best work rather than trying to micromanage or force others to do what you want. He argues that this is important because younger generations expect their leaders to give them respect and autonomy over their work. Therefore, adopting this style of leadership will help you attract employees to your organization and advance your core purpose.

To implement this team-oriented style of leadership (what George calls the “I to We” shift), you must build strong relationships with your employees and use feedback and introspection to increase your self-awareness. George says that to strengthen your relationships with team members, you have to be vulnerable and show mutual respect. This gives you more credibility as a leader and establishes the supportive and non-hierarchical dynamic that millennial employees prefer. For example, if you’re providing constructive feedback to a team member about their work habits, you might tell them that you also struggled with some of those same behaviors in the past and let them know that you’ll provide any additional support they might need to improve. 

In addition to relationship-building, soliciting feedback is an important way to ensure that you’re supporting your team to the best of your ability. George advises you to process feedback objectively and follow it up with introspection about your behavior and how you can genuinely improve your strategies moving forward. He asserts that feedback is necessary to adapt your leadership style to your colleagues and the circumstances. For example, a person who’s newer in your industry may want more guidance, whereas a veteran employee might prefer to work more independently. Therefore, you may need to have one-on-one conversations to get feedback and understand these individual needs. 

Failure is not the opposite of success. It’s a stepping stone to success.

George explains that when some people get to a position of power, they don’t want to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. Instead, they’ll deny their role in it, blame other team members, and make short-sighted decisions that ultimately lead to their downfall. For example, instead of taking responsibility for a business’s low revenue, a leader lacking accountability might instead lie on reports or expect other people to fix the problem, which could end up making it worse.

Some leaders don’t solicit feedback or establish good relationships with their colleagues. George asserts that when leaders self-isolate, it makes them prone to mistakes that could otherwise be avoided. For example, a leader might insist on continuing with a business model that other managers and employees already know from experience doesn’t work. However, since the employees aren’t welcome to share feedback, the leader will unknowingly tank the business.

Diversity of skills is an important element of any effective team.

George’s piece of advice for becoming a strong leader is to embrace the needs of a globalized business world. He argues that today, industries need to look toward global markets to expand, and businesses need leaders with specific skills that go beyond those of the past. These include geopolitical knowledge, awareness of the diverse needs of overseas markets, and the ability to navigate other cultures

(Shortform note: This component of George’s advice assumes that your core purpose can be scaled up to the global level, so it may not be as relevant for someone whose organization is focused on a local mission. However, for more locally focused leaders, it may still be important to understand the diverse needs of their community.) 

George asserts that one aspect of geopolitical savvy is knowing what regions may experience political unrest that could influence your business prospects there. You may also need to understand how market trends are different in other countries depending on the culture. For example, in some regions, people might be more accustomed to using public transportation to get around, or they might be more environmentally conscious than the average person in the US. Thus, marketing cars in these places may require a different approach, or a new, experimental product instead. 

Another skill that’s important for the globalized business world is being able to thrive in new places and cultures. George says that leaders have to be open-minded and flexible about different ways of doing things—for example, tailoring a line of food products to incorporate culturally relevant and locally produced ingredients. George argues that the best way to prepare for these skills is by spending time abroad when you’re young. He says this will help you expand your horizons and learn about navigating cultural diversity. 

Discover Your True North: Quotes About Top-Notch Leadership

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Bill George's "Discover Your True North" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Discover Your True North summary:

  • Why being true to yourself is more important than having talent or charm
  • Guidelines anyone can follow to become a leader in their organization
  • How to identify your purpose and ethics based on your unique experiences

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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