True North (2007) is a guide to discovering your inner compass and staying true to yourself, all while developing the skills you need to be an authentic leader. By uncovering your values and motivations, you’ll gain the tools you need to build a professional life that remains true to who you are.
We all have unique life stories shaped by past relationships and events. Authentic leaders, however, gain more from these experiences than the rest of us.
Authentic leaders are genuine people - that is, true to themselves and their beliefs - who are able to motivate others to perform at their best. Ultimately, they’re more concerned with serving others than with their own success or recognition.
Understanding the meanings of the key events in your unique story will guide you and help you find and focus on your True North. This, in turn, will set you on the path to becoming an authentic leader.
A case in point is Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks. When an accident caused his father to lose his job, his whole family lost their health coverage. Schultz’s mother was pregnant and unable to work, so his parents borrowed money and avoided bill collectors.
Schultz had vowed to create a different reality for workers if he had the chance, and he thus made Starbucks the first company in the United States to offer health coverage to part-time employees working as little as 20 hours a week.
In this case, Schultz’s experience and memories of his father carried him along the path to authentic leadership.
Authentic leaders’ stories also provide the context for their lives, as well as the inspiration to have an impact in the world.
Take Reatha Clark King, former president of the General Mills Foundation. As a poor, black woman growing up in Georgia during the 1940s, both poverty and discrimination were constant obstacles in King’s life. Nevertheless, she won scholarships and eventually earned a PhD in thermochemistry.
King’s goal is to create more opportunities for the poor and to help others overcome the barriers of racial and gender discrimination. She drew inspiration from her own story to stay true to who she is – and to stay on course with her True North.
Money and success don’t make authentic leaders forget those they’ve left behind; rather, they spur a sense of responsibility to help them.