William W. George

Senior Fellow

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership as a Professor of Management Practice since 2004. He is the former Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic and the author of four best-selling books:  Authentic Leadership; True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership; Finding Your True North; and 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.  His most recent book, True North Groups, was published in September 2011. Professor George is faculty chair of HBS’s executive education program Authentic Leadership Development and co-chair of Leading Global Enterprises.

He joined Medtronic in 1989 as President and Chief Operating Officer, was Chief Executive Officer from 1991-2001, and Chairman of the Board from 1996 to 2002.  Earlier in his career, he was an executive with Honeywell and Litton Industries and served in the U.S. Department of Defense. Mr. George currently serves as a director of ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Mayo Clinic, and also recently served on the board of Novartis and Target.  He is a director of World Economic Forum USA, Minnesota’s Destination Medical Center Corporation, and the Guthrie Theater.  He is the former chair of Allina Health System, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, United Way of the Greater Twin Cities, and Advamed.

Mr. George received his BSIE with high honors from Georgia Tech, his MBA with high distinction from Harvard University, where he was a Baker Scholar. He has received honorary PhDs from Georgia Tech, Mayo Medical School, University of St. Thomas, Augsburg College, and Bryant University and is a member of National Academy of Engineering. During 2002-03 he was professor at IMD International and Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland, and executive-in-residence at Yale School of Management in 2003.

In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Bower Award for Business Leadership by The Franklin Institute. He has been named one of the "Top 25 Business Leaders of the Past 25 Years" by PBS; "Executive of the Year-2001" by the Academy of Management; and "Director of the Year-2001-02" by the National Association of Corporate Directors. 

He and his wife Penny split their time between Cambridge and Minnesota.

HBS Healthcare Initiative
  1. Research on Small Groups

    by William W. George

    Professor George recently completed a three-year study of small groups, in conjunction with Douglas M. Baker and Jane L. Cavanaugh. The output of this research was published as part of  his new book, True North Groups: A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development (Berrett-Koehler, September 2011). These groups are an outgrowth of the Leadership Development Groups used in his course, "Authentic Leadership Development," in which 1,600 MBAs and executives have participated.
  2. Leadership Development

    by William W. George

    Professor George has completed his research study on leadership development, based on in-person, in-depth interviews with 125 business and non-profit leaders, over half of whom are chief executive officers. They range in age from 23 to 93, with thirty per cent women. As the result of this research study, his new book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, was published in March 2007.

    Continuing his research on leadership development, he has developed a series of leadership exercises for individuals and groups to use in developing their leadership.  These exercises can be used in academic courses for undergraduates, graduate students, and executive education as well as in corporate education and training sessions.  This research has resulted in a new book, Finding Your True North: A Personal Guide, that will serve as a companion to True North and will be published in May 2008. 

    His current research focuses on the use of leadership discussion groups, with peer facilitators, to enable individuals to discover their authentic leadership and to develop themselves.