Bill George at the World Business Forum

by SixFigureStart | October 06, 2009

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If Bill George’s opening address at the World Business Forum is setting the tone for what’s to follow, we may be in for a couple of days of listening to people telling us what we (or the business leaders his presentation is aimed at) should really know already. George, a Harvard professor and former CEO of Medtronic, utilized his 90 minute session to offer “7 lessons for leading in a crisis.” Beginning by looking back over the course of the previous year—and commenting on just how close the global financial system came to complete meltdown—what emerged from George’s comments is that business success and failure is essentially the product of human behavior.

George sees a fundamental difference between leaders who are prepared to make the tough calls for the long-term good of their businesses, rather than falling victim to short-term thinking—traits that are especially important in times of crisis. That sort of common sense thinking and practicality is ensconced within all 7 of George’s tips below.

Bill George’s 7 tips for leading in a crisis:

  1. Face reality, starting with yourself
  2. Don’t be Atlas: Get the World off your shoulders
  3. Dig Deep for the Root Cause
  4. Get Ready for the Long Haul
  5. Never Waste a Good Crisis
  6. You’re in the Spotlight: Follow True North
  7. Go on Offense: Focus on Winning Now

More than anything, George stresses the importance of leaders stepping up in your “decisive moment.” And he should know: the final anecdote in his speech revolved around his own decision to get off the treadmill at Honeywell—a company where he had designs on attaining the CEO’s chair—to take a position as CEO of Medtronic. The “defining moment,” he says, came when he realized that he was changing who he was in order to impress and climb the ladder at Honeywell. By comparison, the position at Medtronic, “felt like coming home” at a company where he felt like he was doing good, rather than simply focusing on advancing his career. No matter how intuitive or obvious it may seem, that’s an approach that any job-seeker—at any level—could learn from.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer

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