People don’t usually wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll be unethical today.” It’s more of a gradual slide away from the moral center.
— Bill George
Several years ago I heard leadership expert Bill George talk about the idea of “true north,” which he defines as an internal ethical compass. He said it is shaped by a leader’s personal experience and it guides their leadership decisions.
The comment above has stayed with me. As we’ve seen in recent ethical failures by business and government organizations, most often it can be traced to a gradual path of unethical leadership decisions rather than one big mistake. For George, that can be traced back to the lack of a clearly defined moral center.
Transformational leadership needs to be ethical. And in order to be ethical, it needs to be authentic. George has identified five key areas for developing this kind of leadership:
- Knowing your authentic self
- Practicing your values and leadership principles
- Understanding your motivations
- Building your support team
- Staying grounded by integrating all aspects of your life
You can explore this topic futher by reading the True North book and using the reflection activities available on the True North web site. Consider these reflection questions from the introduction activity:
- Do you understand your purpose?
- Do you practice your values?
- Do you lead with your heart?
- Do you establish connected relationships?
- Do you demonstrate self-discipline?
Think about leaders that you admire and who demonstrate their “true north.” How might you want to follow their examples?
Dee Anne Bonebright