William W. George

Senior Fellow

Bill George is senior fellow at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership since 2004. He is the author of four best-selling books:7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, True North, Finding Your True North, and Authentic Leadership, as well True North Groups. His newest book, Discover Your True North, was published in August of 2015 along with its companion workbook, The Discover Your True North Fieldbook.  

Mr. George is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Medtronic.  He joined Medtronic in 1989 as president and chief operating officer, was chief executive officer from 1991-2001, and board chair from 1996-2002.  Earlier in his career, he was a senior executive with Honeywell and Litton Industries and served in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Mr. George currently serves as a director of Goldman Sachs, The Mayo Clinic, and Minnesota’s Destination Medical Center Corporation.  He has served recently on the boards of ExxonMobil, Novartis, and Target Corporation.  He is currently a trustee of World Economic Forum USA, and has served as board chair for Allina Health System, Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, United Way of the Greater Twin Cities, and Advamed. 

In April 2014 the Franklin Institute awarded him the Bower Award for Business Leadership. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012. He has been named one of "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.  Mr. George is a CNBC Contributor and has made frequent appearances on television and radio. 

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

He and his wife Penny reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

  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.