Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Becoming an Authentic Leader by Bill George, et al. (Wiley, 2015)
What are the big take-aways?
This is a superb revamp of Bill George et al.’s original handbook, Finding Your True North (Jossey-Bass, 2008). George and his colleagues believe that leaders who know their values and strengths are better able to build trust and motivate others toward common goals, and thus get better performance outcomes from themselves and their teams. The authors also contend that living and leading with authenticity – “the magic of who [you] are” – results in deriving deeper meaning from our experiences (p. x):
In our view, any time you face a decision that impacts others, you are leading. Thus, whether you are a student, parent, bus driver, army officer, CEO, grandparent or citizen of the world, we all have the opportunity to step up and lead….We wrote this workbook based on the assumption that we are all on a journey to become more authentic leaders. This book is for those who wish to deepen their connection to the magic of who they are so that when they have the opportunity to lead, they will be more likely to step up, lead effectively, and live a meaningful life.
The authors reiterate in this version of the handbook that becoming an authentic leader is a lifelong journey of personal development. The Fieldbook offers a straightforward and do-able program for working on what they call “the five key elements of development,” which are self-awareness, values and principles, motivations and sweet spots, support teams, and how to lead an integrated life.
Why did I like it?
This updated and revised Fieldbook offers more context, definitions and explanations for why authentic leadership is critical in the 21st century. An entirely new chapter, “Become a Global Authentic Leader,” is also an excellent addition. The book still begins with exercises designed to assist readers in articulating the development paths they have already been on, and continues with exercises to support them in being even more intentional and authentic as their stories unfold into the future. It provides examples of why leaders sometimes get off track and how they can get back on course, as well as how to leverage life’s challenges into transformative experiences which strengthen leadership purpose and potency. It concludes with practical advice for deepening both one’s own leadership capacities as well as others’, and a set of exercises for designing a personal leadership development plan (essentially, a strategic planning tool for increasing leadership effectiveness).
In what situations would this be useful?
This new Fieldbook addresses a broader audience than the original handbook, and as such it would be useful to anyone interested in exploring “the magic of who [you] are.” Certainly every leader could use this program at any stage in their career. In my own experience, and in my leadership coaching practice, I’ve found the authentic leadership exercises to be particularly helpful for extracting the learning to be gained following especially challenging transitions – “positive” or “negative” – that cause a serious internal struggle. (These are patterns or events that we often think of life-changing. George et al. call them “crucibles.”) In short, the book shows the reader how to learn from life’s greatest challenges in order to emerge as an even more authentic, self-aware and effective leader.
What other resources might “pair” well with it?
If you like Discover Your True North Fieldbook or at least the concept of it, but want some alternatives to consider, check out Becoming a Resonant Leader by McKee, Boyatzis and Johnston (Harvard Business Press, 2008). It covers a lot of the same material, but with a different anchoring theory (emotional intelligence) and it is organized quite differently. Another leadership workbook that regular readers of the Leadership Library know I love is Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman (Berrett-Koehler, 2008). I review the 2017 revision of Cashman’s handbook in the Leadership Library in July 2019.