Book Review: "Discover Your True North" by Bill George

Ask my students and my colleagues, and they will agree: I love anything to do with leadership. Teaching it, talking and reading about it, experiencing it, and most of all, participating in people's leadership journeys in a variety of ways. As such, several years ago, I was asked to teach the capstone leadership course (BA664 Leadership in Management) for the Master of Science in Management degree in the Harrison College of Business and Computing at Southeast Missouri State University. Designing a course of this magnitude required selecting a special text that would resonate with my students and that would also help them devise their Leadership Development Plan as the culmination of their experience in the class and program.

Enter Bill George's "Discover Your True North." Filled with numerous examples from leaders throughout history and countless thought-provoking exercises and assessments, this text was the perfect choice.

Organized into three parts -- Your Journey to Leadership, Developing as an Authentic Leader, and Your True North Meets the World -- "Discover Your True North" challenges the reader to think about all aspects of their leadership journey from their own crucibles, to how they work with teams, to how to lead an integrated life. That's only to name a few of the highlights from the intricately woven 12 chapters of this book.

Erin Rae Fluegge, Ph. D.,

True North, as defined by Bill George, is "your orienting point -- your fixed point in a spinning world -- that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, your values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, that represents who you are at your deepest level." He provides this definition on the first page of the book where he sets the stage of self-discovery and analysis welcoming the reader to take the -- exciting, scary, difficult, but ultimately rewarding -- journey to discover their true north.

First introduced in 2007, "Discover Your True North" features insights from first-person interviews with 125 leaders from various backgrounds. The expanded and updated edition published in 2015 includes an additional 48 leaders. Both versions include exercises at either the end of the book (2007) or the end of the chapter (2015) that invite the audience to reflect on their related leadership experiences. The self-assessments are one of my favorite parts of the book because of how they invite you to look back at your past and towards your future while thinking about your present, all with the ultimate goal of helping you discover your true north. Such awesome tools were the perfect fit to integrate into my class.

All kinds of students have taken the BA664 course with me, and their diverse backgrounds range from newly out of undergrad students to seasoned managers to military officers to C-suite executives and even a dean of a business school. Their feedback about the book is precisely why I chose this one to recommend to you. While sometimes the examples in the book can be hard to relate to for some individuals (many CEOs and founders are featured in "True North"), everyone agrees that the approach taken in the text is worthwhile and stimulating to them. In fact, the ultimate endorsement is when I hear students have kept the text and even bought copies for their friends, families, and co-workers because the content of "True North" impacted them so much that they wanted to pay it forward.

Often touted as a leadership classic, "Discover Your True North" is a collection of advice, wisdom, and challenges that encourages you to explore yourself in a host of ways. Rather than being prescriptive in nature, the tone of the book is inviting and welcoming and inspires the reader to be an active participant in their unique process of inquiry. From reading the book I have found that part of my true north is helping others find theirs. My hope is that this book leads you on a path of self-discovery as it has done for me and a myriad of others. That said, just as I tell my students, I am excited about your journey -- good luck!

Dr. Erin Rae Fluegge is associate professor of management in the Harrison College of Business and Computing and faculty fellow of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, both at Southeast Missouri State University.