The new Syensqo 'And is the Future' podcasts hosted by CEO Ilham Kadri will be a continuation of the former Solvay editions that concluded after the spin off of Syensqo in December 2023.
Following your north star, facing crucibles that test your skills, and becoming an authentic leader
According to leadership expert Bill George, “Your true north is the essence of who you are, and before you can go on an outer leadership journey, you have to go on an inner journey.” Ilham has a fascinating discussion with Bill about how you can find your True North, his new book on leadership, the shift from “I” to “we”, advice to emerging leaders and much more.
2:16 - Youth and early lessons in leadership
5:10 - What is True North
10:50 - About his new book: True North Emerging Leader Edition
13: 09 - Becoming an authentic leader
17:24 - Crucibles that test your leadership
20:58 - Shift from I to We
23:18 - True North and North Star - what’s the difference?
27:33 - Political issues - when to become involved
30:36 - Giving back: the George Family Foundation
32:52 - Advice to young leaders
Meet Bill George
Bill George is one of the most renowned experts on leadership. He's the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, and currently an executive fellow at Harvard Business School. You may know Bill as the author of the groundbreaking book, True North, as well as many other books on leadership. He has just published this newest book called True North Emerging Leaders Edition, which he co-authored with the Millennial entrepreneur, Zach Clayton
Ilham Kadri: Today I'm very happy to welcome Bill George, who is one of the most renowned experts on leadership. He's the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, and currently an executive fellow at Harvard Business School. In fact, I had the pleasure of attending his lectures at Harvard and they were so inspiring. You probably know Bill as the author of the groundbreaking book, True North, as well as many other books on leadership and has just published this newest book called True North Emerging Leaders Edition, which he co-authored with the Millennial entrepreneur, Zach Clayton, I'm so excited to hear about this fabulous new book and his incredible leadership journey. Bill, I'm so thrilled and thank you so much for being here today.
Bill George: Thank you for having me Ilham because you're my role model of a leader. All the amazing things you've done before Solvay. The things you're doing there now, but most important, your personal leadership. So it's a privilege to be with you because you're one of the people I really look up to and admire. By the way, just this morning, Fortune came out with its new 500 list and finally, finally, I would say it's about time. We have 11% of the Fortune 500 leaders are women, are CEOs, female CEOs, but interesting enough, in the last two years, it's been, the new appointments have been ranging in the level of 25 to 30%. So I've often said we missed so much talent in the past by having predominantly males. So good for you for providing this leadership.
Youth and early lessons in leadership
Ilham Kadri: Oh, thank you Bill. And I hope you know a few of us and you know that we're gonna turn the anecdote into mainstream. And thanks to leaders like you who promote, including in the classroom, right, the diversity, or not only gender, but diversity of thoughts. So, I've heard you Bill tell a story about how when you were young, when you were young, you always wanted to be a leader, but had to learn a lot of big lessons on how to actually become one. Can you tell us about your upbringing? I'm a curious, you know, person. I believe it was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Right? You talked about it when I was with you in the classroom and what made you so interested in leadership at such a young age?
Bill George: Well, when I was nine years old, my father pulled me aside and said, I failed to become a leader. Now I have to say my father worked for Booz Allen. I thought he was a very good consultant, but he never took on leadership roles. So he says to me, I'd like you to become the leader I never became. And he even says to raise my side, son, you can be head of a major corporation. Even named, he said, I've held stock in this company, Atlanta, Georgia since 1937, it's called the Coca-Cola Company. You could be head of that company or there's another great company in Cincinnati called Proctor and Gamble, or a new little computer company on the East coast called IBM. Anyway, I actually wound up working summer jobs for all three companies, but uh, you know, it was kind of a heavy trip, but I was a little kid. I didn't even know where these companies were, but I get, I'm pushing my father away cuz I was closer to my mother. But on the other hand, you know, subliminally, I get these messages. So, I thought leadership was about building a resume, an impressive le resume, organizing all these things and never realized it really about human relationships and you know, so I never selected lead anything. Finally ran for president, senior class and when the votes came in, I ran against only one other person. I lost my margin of two to one. So it was pretty clear the kids in my school didn't see me as a leader, cuz I wasn't. I went off to college, went to Georgia Tech to study engineering, ran for office six more times, lost all six. So now I'm oh for seven, feeling like a real loser. And some seniors pulled me aside and said, bill, you have a lot of potential. But I can tell you the way you're going, no one's ever gonna work with you, much less be led by you because you're moving so fast to get ahead that you never take time for other people.
Ilham Kadri: Oh
Bill George: And you know, they were right. And, so I had to really slow down, really build relationships, go back to some of the people that had rejected me, do my own self-help leadership development program. And I was fortunate after that to lead some organizations. But it was a real message for me.
What is True North
Ilham Kadri: Yeah, well, what an amazing lesson. So slow, slow, slow down, go slow to go fast, bring more people, more followership right. But it all starts with our upbringing, and this is very common to all my guests right in the podcast. And for anyone who hasn't been following your work, can you explain to our audience, what is the True North and how does one find it?
Bill George: Well, your true north is the essence of who you are, and I think before you can go on an outer journey like you have, you have to go on an inner journey to figure out who you are, and you have to explore your life story, your difficult times, which we call crucibles and understand your desires, your motivations, what's causing you to want to take on leadership? As you know, leadership is very challenging. It's very difficult, but if you don't have, you know, you don't really know who you are, you're gonna try to emulate somebody like Jack Welch. You know, you're gonna try to be, he was all powerful leader when I was ceo. And you know, you're gonna try to be something different than you are and then you're gonna become cross as very inauthentic. And so I think to be the authentic you. And for a long time people felt like they had to be different than who they were. And I think now the essence is people just want to know who you are. Have you ever had a difficult time? Have you been challenged? Of course you know you have. And have you ever been discriminated against? You ever run into roadblocks? Of course you have. And so I think those things really become the essence before you can then go off on the outer journey and lead other people and people that jump passed that and try to oftentimes find themselves in difficult times in their forties cuz they haven't done that kind of inner inner sense of themselves.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. So, the authenticity, and I remember we discussed it a lot in your classroom and you were one of the few, and frankly, you were kind of a pioneer because as you said, very well, bill, we were groomed, educated in the western world. I grew up in Africa where, you know, we were, we were very much more open about our vulnerabilities and mentoring is part of our social life, but indeed in the western world, you had to show the muscles, yes, I can do it, rather than bring your authentic or whole self at work, which sometimes, you know, doesn't make it a very happy world to be in, including from the leadership point of view. And you were a kind of pioneer, you were one of the first leaders, writers, you know, inspiring thought leader who really start talking about this clear transformation in leadership and the inner, you know, side that's happening where it's no longer enough to just have charisma, big ego, and focus on how much money you can make because the younger generations are not interested in that. They want to work for leaders who have purpose and companies that are doing something meaningful. When did you start noticing this now unmistakable trend, Bill.
Bill George: I would say I noticed it in the eighties in the nineties as ceo. I felt it with a lot of other CEOs cuz it was all about charisma, big ego, you know, being the all powerful person on top, directing everyone to do when you're measured by how many people you had working for you, which is a total inaccuracy. And, so when I left Medtronic, you know, it's hard to write a book when you're there, but I always wanted to share my ideas with other people. So I wrote a book in 2003, which was 20 years ago, called Authentic Leadership, and I said, Why can't we just be who we are? Be the person we are called to be? Isn't our unique self pretty good? In fact, great. And be that person. That's all people want from you. And a lot of people said, gee, what's it mean? I think they were scared to be authentic. I think they were scared to show. I think you were born in Morocco, aren't you?
Ilham Kadri: Yeah,
Bill George: Yeah. And why wouldn't you share that with people.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. Yeah.
Bill George: Where you came from. It's an integral part of who you're, and, you know, you can't hide the fact you're a woman, you know, and born in a different, you know, just something to be proud of, right? Not something to say, oh, you know, I'm trying to be like somebody else. And, and I think, you know, Oscar Wilde said, just be yourself cuz everyone else is taken.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah.
Bill George: And so I think that was the whole essence of that. And then later I got into writing the book True North about other people's experiences. But trying to look at, say, you can you, and by the way, you don't have to be ceo. How many people do you have in, you want every one of them to lead? If you, you know, if you're the only one leading and everyone else is sitting around just waiting for you to give orders, it's never gonna work. You want them to lead no matter where they're in the world, you want 'em to step up and lead now. So I think people got too much caught up with titles and how much money they were making and the person making the most money is the most powerful. I, this is all nonsense to me. And you can lead right where they are. Even people today, we've neglected. I believe we neglected the frontline people. Who are the people in your company doing the work? They're the ones that we need to really honor and value. These people, you know, are working really hard, and by the way, a lot of 'em lead by example, or they train fellow colleagues. They set the standards, they're the culture carriers for your whole organization. And if they believe in the quality of the work, you can't force them to believe that. But if they believe in it, there'll be a standard for everyone else to follow.
About his new book: True North Emerging Leader Edition
Ilham Kadri: Absolutely. So now that you've written this wonderful book, called True North Emerging Leader Edition, Why did you feel that a new addition of True North was needed right now? Can you explain more for our audience? What's in there that was not in the True North book?
Bill George: We're going through a massive transformation in leadership. You could simplistically say it's from the baby boomers to the emerging leaders that I define as gen X, millennial and Gen Z, and it's all of those. So everyone, younger than their early fifties, and they're great role models. I included in the book from the baby boomers, but I think too much as an overall generation was too much about how much money you made, who's the smartest person in the room. You came one time in your life in the consulting field and we, we kind of venerated the smartest person. But it's really not about that today. It's this change. I wanna make a difference. You know, I wanna really help people through my work, and I think the emerging generations are really committed to that, and I think we need leaders that are sensitive to that. Does everyone in your organization feel included, regardless of their race, their gender, the country they were born in, sexual identity, religion? Or do they feel like I'm kind of separate from everyone else? I'm not really a part of this. If they don't feel included. You're not gonna have a great organization and they come together not around how much money you made last year, but is there a deeper sense of purpose? Do we have some clarity? The exact things you and you, to your credit, went out and listened to what people had to say. That's really what it's all about because it's amazing. I spent a lot of, when I joined Medtronic, I spent a tremendous amount of time just listening to people and listening to customers.Listening to first line employees, and I learned so much from them, you know, about what were the issues we had, and some of these things didn't get frankly, filtered up to the top through, you know, through reporting your statistics. That was important, but not nearly as important as what I learned by really talking to people, listening and watching and seeing with my own eyes how things were working. That was my great, I think the great thing that I really got out of it.
Becoming an authentic leader
Ilham Kadri: And you're right, I think from generation of leaders to others. I have a Gen Z at home, my own kid, and, and he is interesting because they and, and my CEO office, I have so many young people around me. I practice reverse mentoring, which we discuss also in your classroom about how leaders like me, you know, at the end of the day, our role is to prepare the company for future leaders to replace us and take it to another level of prosperity.
And I think, what I liked also in your book, Is that you are, featuring. And I really loved the stories of the authentic leaders, and other stories and the ones I read before. And you say this, I think it's about having empathy is about bringing the authentic self. These people, they lead as we call it, at, with their hearts and their minds.
And that's what we call achieving the power of the AND the A-N-D. Because they can be more effective business people and care for their people. So, can you tell us or tell our listeners about one or two of these great leaders? Some stories, a few of your favorites, Bill?
Bill George: Yeah, but by the way, I think you just nailed it. That's what leadership today is all about. To be a great leader today, you have to lead with the mind, if you will. You have to understand critical thinking. You have to make, you have to understand the numbers, and you also have to make difficult decisions. On the other hand, you also have to lead with the heart. Do you have passion for Solvay’s work? Do you have compassion for the people you're serving? You know, if you don't do a good job serving your customers, Where are you and do you have empathy for the challenges people face if you have an accident? You know, are you concerned about accidents in one of your factories? I'm sure you are. And, but we want everyone to be concerned that it has to be worked just perfectly, so we have a very safe environment and a healthy environment. And I think also you've shown it since you've been there. Tremendous courage to make the changes necessary that have to be made. And I found there's some really good managers out there that are not courageous. You know, they're, frankly, better managers. They are great at kind of sitting on top and understanding everything and running the numbers, but they really don't have the courage to make bold decisions. And today we live in such tumultuous times that you need to make bold decisions. One of the people who did that is Indra Nooyi, who is former CEO of PepsiCo. Now I feature her cause she led through a crisis. Now she didn't, she changed the mission. She gave it, PepsiCo never really had a purpose other than making soft drinks and, and food. As I teased her once, I said, you know, high sugar drinks and high fat foods, but she put nutrition on the scale and said, this is really important and we need to make healthier products, and we're going to do that. We're gonna have good for you, healthy for you products. And, then she got some criticism cause they had lost a couple of attempts to appoint this soft drink business. And, you know, and she had to make some adjustments from all of her shareholders. And then an activist investor came in. Nelson Peltz, who by the way, has gone into Unilever and other places, and tried to break it up the company. And she said, no, this company matters. We're together. We're better together because people eat our products together. When we go to Walmart, we can leverage our business because we can bring things that Coca-Cola doesn't bring. We bring the full food as well as the beverages. We have healthy beverages. And so she was way ahead of her time. And so this activist tried to take her over and break up the company and she strongly resisted. And she got her board to back her. And I thought she showed enormous courage during that. It would've been easier for her to go along and I'm sure they would've made a nice financial settlement. No, no. She'll be always remembered for those two things, bringing nutrition to the company and when the company was under great pressure that she stayed in there and built a great company. And I've worked with PepsiCo and I can tell you it's a great company today, but largely cuz Indrai kept it on the right track for the 21st century.
Crucibles that test your leadership
Ilham Kadri: Yeah, it's an amazing story and I look up at her as one of my role models as well. In the book, you talk a lot about, I think you mentioned it, the crucibles or the challenges that can shape you as a leader and really make you rise to the occasion. And I think we can all relate to that in our history. And I think more and more the youth, the employees, the, you know, the students. They wanna hear more about those. What, what are those examples from the book? And what were those crucibles for you as a leader, Bill?
Bill George: Well, I was with Honeywell. My, I mentioned to you earlier, my father wanted to be head of a major corporation, so I went with Honeywell. The three best years of my life are living in Brussels, Belgium, running Honeywell, middle East, US, Europe, Middle East and Africa. And I just loved it. Traveled all over from doorway to Cape Town. But really and love the experience and bringing together different nationalities. Before my predecessor tried to impose American ways on Europeans, I knew that wasn't gonna work. And so we brought all the Europeans into top level leadership. The chairman of Germany and the general, the head of UK and, and France and Italy. And you know, and this worked. Really well and building this up and I love the experience. Then I got called back to the corporate headquarters. I got a two step promotion, worst promotion in my life cuz I found out I was dealing with huge bureaucracy and I, they gave me all the turnarounds I wanted to do.So I was on my third set of turnarounds. Monday I woke up and I said, you know, this really what I want to do if I do become CEO, and I was you modestly, probably the leading candidate, become the next ceo cuz they've been giving me all these challenges just to prepare. I said, you know, it'll take seven years to get the company back where it was five years ago. And, but I don't feel good about what I'm doing. And I also was kind of playing the game of trying to back what the same mistake I'd made when I was younger. Playing the game of looking like the man saying just the right thing, not being myself and tell me where you're engineers, you don't show any passion, you don't show any commitment to, you know, and I really wanted to do that. And so that's when I made the decision. Take a step back, go to a smaller company called Medtronic, mid-size company. And it was the best decision of my professional life because I felt like I was with a group of people that were really passionate about the mission of restoring people to full life and health, led by a clear set of values. And it was just a great 13 years I had there and had the chance to lead the company. And of course, it's, as you may know, it's grown up now to be a pretty good sized company, 32 billion in revenues and, over a hundred billion market caps. So it's a large company today, but when I went there, it was kind of midsize and didn't have a sophisticated global system that we had to create that and put that in. And, but I love my time and I think that's kind of for me, That crucible I had of being really unhappy at Honeywell, even though I was outwardly doing well, inwardly, I was not doing well, cuz I was just kind of like a duck outta water. And, I didn't love the business and I found I really love Medtronic's business.So, that was the best move I ever made and it kind of led to all these things I've done since then teaching at Harvard and writing books and doing things as well to get some clarity about what's important for me. And maybe something else is important to someone else, but that was what was important to me.
Shift from I to We
Ilham Kadri: Yeah, this is an amazing story. I love it. It's about starting with yourself and you say, say this in the book, the hardest person, you will have to lead this yourself. And you are, you are giving us great lessons, including the not care about the size of the business I mentor and. Some of my mentees, I give them the same example where I moved from Europe to Middle East and obviously got smaller business, but it was, you know, so greater than the business as I had before cuz I had to develop it. I was with people who shared the same vision, values, and purpose and the engagements and the followership was there. So, I liked also build the parts in the book where you talk about these shifts. From I to we, which we hear a lot of. I, I I, and, and I love that part, that, that, and you say that the true leaders must make that crucial shift. Can you tell us more?
Bill George: Great. I really think that, you know, people don't wanna just work for you to aggrandize you and make you successful. They wanna have a stake in the enterprise. And when you become a true leader and you know, and as a true leader, you're leading other leaders, you're not just managing people. You have to flip that switch and realize, no, it's all about us and I'm really, the people are there not to serve me. I'm really there to serve all the people and my customers. And our shareholders. And our investors. That's what my job is, and I'm really a servant leader, and so I have to flip that switch and realize it's not just about me getting ahead and people are not there just to make you get ahead. They wanna have, they wanna fulfill their own sense of purpose, their own sense of, they wanna know, they work for a company that matters. They wanna be able to go home and tell their families, tell their friends, tell their colleagues, wow, we are doing amazing things in our company. You may look at us one way. But no, you should see the things we're doing for people today, both outside, you know, our customers and, and inside the company. You wanna have that pride, and that's how you build a great company. And, but if you, the leader, didn't make that shift, then everyone else can be out for themselves and be creating frankly, a political jungle. We, so I think we have to do that to build great organizations.
True North and North Star - what’s the difference?
Ilham Kadri: I love it. So servant leadership is something we talked a lot about it Solvay. it's not about me but be frugal the great leaders they eat last. This is the best probably gift you can give to our listeners is exactly what I tell them. You know, the high potential needs to be tested in, you know, the most difficult, you know, spaces, scopes, geographies. And when Dow appointed me, I remember in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I think my Saudi partners were thinking, what's this?They're pushing a lady to, she cannot even mingle with men at that time. And I had to wear an abaya, right? So, so, and, and I took it, thinking, wow, this is a great project. I loved what I could see and, and really verse, and others believed in me that I could actually go through the challenge, and it was the best assignments in my career was not easy. For six months, I struggled. After the, the Saudi and Aramco, you know, partners start to call me their sister and they started helping me. That, that time I knew I, I became a competitive advantage. But frankly, I came there and most of my friends. And mentors actually, some of them say, you are stupid, don't do it. You are killing your career. And I said, look, I follow a bit my instinct, but you're right. I think that's the True North and the North Star. Right. In a way. And, can you, can you help us explain the difference between the true North and your North Star, Bill?
Bill George: Yeah, but that's a wonderful story about you're going to Saudi Arabia and uh, again, I encourage you to pick out who are the emerging leaders in your organization. They probably don't report to you probably a level down, level two down and give them those opportunities. I think one of the forms, we'll come back to diversity later, but one of the forms of diversity we don't have is age diversity in organizations. And I you mentioned reverse mentoring. I think we really need to listen to the voices of people who are very different than we are and get their experience to understand their passions. So, back to your question.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. Your North and North Star.
Bill George: Your true north is who you are. Okay? And so, I and then, your North Star is that constant point in the sky cuz there's always a North Star that's available to everyone. You can see the North Star. And that is a constant point in the sky. That's the purpose of your leadership. So for me, you know, I'd like to think of myself, who I am as, I'm a value centered person who tries to stay true to what I believe and centered to my beliefs. My North Star, if you will, is enabling other people to reach their full potential. So if I could just say one little bit on this podcast that maybe caught somebody who was listening, that really inspired them to go to realize their full potential. And that's, that's my goal. And that would make the whole time with you worthwhile because I think that's really, that's what I do. I, and here, interesting enough, I've never had a job where I knew as much about the work, the business as the people who work for me. And so, what did I bring to 'em? You know, I was never the super expert. I couldn't design a defibrillator at Medtronic. I was never the expert at Honeywell at Harvard. I'm not an expert academic. The only thing I can do is to try to work with other people to enable them as leaders, to step up and realize their full potential. And sometimes that means seeing gifts they have that maybe they're too modest or they don't see in themselves, and having to pull that out of 'em and giving 'em opportunities to say You really have those opportunities. Maybe Saudi Arabia has had an opportunity for you, that it pulled things out of you that you didn't even know were there. So, me, that's, that's what I wanna do. That's my North Star. And that's the difference between True North, which is who you are and your North Star is, is really, what you're going to do and your purpose.
Political issues - when to become involved
Ilham Kadri: It's beautifully said, talking about, you know, politics, social issues, the macros, right? And geopolitics are becoming very challenging. And I believe that's my, you know, my CEO role. I mean, I was a CEO in the US with the company Diversity and I met you in between my two roles. But since four years, five years, I feel that the job also is changing a lot.
And a lot of business leaders and peers today wonder how involved they should be. They can be in political and social issues because it's blurring, right? It's coming to our homes in our companies with our partners. In your opinion, when should business leaders take a stand on these issues, Bill?
Bill George: I think. That's a great question. And let me just say, being a CEO today is much tougher than when I was ceo. Your job is much tougher than I ever had because society has expectations for CEOs, not just about your earnings per share, and your financial reporting. They have expectations for you to make a real contribution to society. Now in Europe, it's always been much more that way than in the United States. I, but you know, I think it comes down to what are the mission and values or what's the purpose and values of Solvay. And when you have something that's grounded in that, then I think you need to take a stand. Right now there's big pushback against it, there was this big ESG movement and now there's a big pushback against it. And I was with a company that does Ecolab, that did for two days last week. Does tremendous amount for the environment, you know, and trying to deal with water issues and energy issues and cleanliness issues. And they were saying they're getting a lot of pushback. I said, no, that's who you are. You know, are you getting pushback for the things that Solvay is doing that are really good things? Hang in there, do it. But you know, there are other issues. Maybe this may take a low risk, but having lived in Brussels, you don't necessarily want to get into the political disputes.
Ilham Kadri: No.
Bill George: You’re not the one to try to adjudicate those disagreements.
Ilham Kadri: Absolutely.
Bill George: You wanna respect both cuz you have employees that are both, you know, and so, but I think it's important if, when, when values issues come up, when a issue that reads on your purpose, if it's a healthcare issue, Medtronic has to be there. Medtronic has to step up to that issue. Paul Coleman at Unilever had to step up to the sustainability issues. Once he put his stake in the ground, behind that, then he can't back off. So that's when I think you step up and they, you know, we get in, particularly in the US now, there's this huge political back and forth and it's very unhealthy, I will say. And I think the reason people are looking to you step up because they see that business has potential to really make a difference, to really impact things in a very positive way.
Giving back: the George Family Foundation
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. No, it's, it's, it's so important And I know you do a lot in your personal life, life as well. You and your wife started the George Family Foundation. Back in the nineties right and which has given away, more than $70 million, mostly in health and wellbeing. I must have been so important for your rights Bill, to give back. Tell us more about that.
Bill George: Well, you know, you kind of come into this world with nothing and you leave with nothing. And the idea you can, as I try to tell wealthy people who aren't giving any money away, they're wealthier than I am. You can't take it with you. And so what do you, what mark are you gonna leave on this earth? And people will remember those much more than how much money you're worth, how many people you commanded, what your title was, any of those things. They'll remember what you did for other people. So my wife is very passionate about looking at the whole person in healthcare. In other words, don't look at me as a body part. She had breast cancer and had breast surgery. Don't look at me as a body part. Look at me. I wanna be a whole person, mind, body, and spirit. And so we're trying to bring this more to transform healthcare. My goal, closely I associated with my teaching is we're trying to transform leadership. We're looking to get behind leaders, nonprofit leaders and leaders in other walks of life who are really making a difference in the world. And then fund them and look for young people coming up with great potential. Maybe they wouldn't have the opportunity to go to the school they went or to get through it cuz they don't have the financial wherewithal. To give them those opportunities. And so we're doing a lot in leadership. We're also working a lot with developing youth and also with the environment because I think all these things come together where we're trying to make, get behind authentic leaders who our whole in mind, body, spirit, and community. So that's been, thank you for asking. But we just had a board meeting on Saturday, so it's very top of mind. Very exciting to say. How can we give it away, you know? And, I admire people, like I say, have a lot more money than I do. If they are like Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg giving away Warren Buffet now, giving away. They've done very well financially, but they're gonna give it away, so, why not?
Advice to young leaders
Ilham Kadri: And I wanna celebrate, your wife, Penny. It's, it's great to to hear that behind, you know, great, successful, inspiring leaders like you. There are invisible heroes and great spouses. And your wife, not only you say this, and thank you for sharing this. She's breast cancer survivor, but an advocate for this healthcare for everyone. Holistic healthcare for everyone. So thanks to you both. I think it's so, you are so inspiring. We look up at you and we wanna do exactly the same. So to finish with few advices to our listeners, the youth from Solvay and beyond, to become. You know, great leaders today or tomorrow. And the second, what do you enjoy doing beyond being a teacher? You know, a great leader. What's your true North Star?
Bill George: I'm gonna throw a third one in because I learned a lot from you, Ilham. We were at a board meeting, I think it was AO Smith. And asked me to come in and we were talking about how important it is to have a diverse team around you. And you used a story, I believe it was at Bain, where you were at one time, one of the top eight people in the company. And you said, we did these surveys, we came from very diverse backgrounds, but we all had the same point of view. And I learned that, you know, diversity really is about feeling a sense of inclusion. Where it's not about diversity, it's not, you know, just having all the check the box, so to speak, that people like, but it's feeling that I feel I belong here at Solvay. I really feel included and my opinion is respected so that you can have people with diverse sets of opinions. You, that was your point, was how important that is. And I've carried that out to all of my work. And I think every leader needs to ask their people, I don't care what level that you are, get the diverse set of opinions and have people around you who will challenge you. I certainly wanna give your leaders advice, you know, have truth tellers around that say Bill, you're going the wrong way. Or you just dominated this meeting and didn't give people a chance or whatever it is, have those truth tellers that will tell you the truth. And I'm sure you want these people on your team too, because everyone just sits there and applauds and say, what a great leader you are, you may be walking off the cliff together, and so you need to see that you have people around you. So you build a diverse team and then you know, I see today you're much more of a coach than you are a manager and a coach who cares about your people and who challenges them to do better and, uh, you know, and sets high goals, but brings 'em together on a common mission and values. And if you can do that, You'll be a great leader and you'll have plenty of good managers working for you, but the leader is the one that really makes the difference. That can set a high goal, bring people together to achieve that goal, and then you can celebrate. So it's not just those of us on top getting all the rewards. So think about, I think if we could spend more time as leaders with the frontline. When I was at Medtronic, I saw between 700 and a thousand procedures where I actually meet the doctor about 6:30 in the morning. Go to his locker, put on the greens, going in, watch a procedure. I wasn't selling anyone anything, but I was really learning and listening about how things worked, uh, in my business and seeing how it translated out to the customer and what problems the customer has. Sometimes they're, they're seemingly trivial to people back at headquarters, but they're really important to that customer. So I think that learning and understanding, I would go to lunch and sit down and have a group, uh, with a group of factory workers. And say, Hey, how's the quality of day? And they say, oh Mr.George, the machines here are not working well. We can't get the quality we need. You know, that passion that people have. And I think that's the advice I would give to people. And so, what do I do for fun? I went zermatt skiing this winter. I ski in Europe and in the United States a lot. We have a second home out in Colorado, but I went with a Swiss colleague. We went skiing in Switzerland. It was great fun to be back. I've been there several times. I love to travel. Uh, coming back to Europe this fall, it was, I haven't been to Belgium or Paris and several years goes of Covid and I'm looking forward to that. And, I love to climb mountains out in Colorado. We climb 14,000 foot peaks, which is, what is that? 4500 meters. And that's great fun. And uh, so my hobbies are kind of different, but I believe at a certain point in time you have to really stay physically active and be, and, you know, clear your head, be mentally sharp at the same time. And then I love to mentor people. That's what I do. So I've got a lot of people at all ages and I'm mentoring, trying to help them along the way. And that's part of fulfilling my own purpose of trying to help people reach their full potential. And so I love to do that because, that's, I think something I can bring to them, you know, a little wisdom of the years.
Ilham Kadri: Wow. Well, thank you. So you are saying take care of yourself right to to ensure that you stay in shape, to take care of others. Well, thank you so much Bill, for this fascinating conversation. Truly inspiring like day one. I think I met you indeed. First time was, As AO Smith, where I sit in the board and, and I was so inspired. I wanna be, at that time I knew I wanted to be in the class with you. And you are such a great example of leadership, but of this wisdom, you know, teaching, sharing the wisdom transmitting, and you said it's a coach who achieved that power in the AND. And I'm so glad to have you today and you, you motivated and you will continue motivating so many others to follow in your footsteps and become both effective business people, but also AND empathic leaders and that's okay. So thank you so much, bill, for your generosity and wisdom.
Bill George: Well, thank you for the privilege of being with you