A with BILL GEORGE
Bill George, Harvard Business School professor, philanthropist and
author of books including Discover Your True North: Becoming an
Authentic Leader, shares the keys to leadership through giving.
What was your earliest awareness of the
importance of giving? Was it a priority
in your family, and if so, how was that
demonstrated and instilled in you?
My earliest awareness goes all the way back to
childhood when my father and mother told me
that their idea of tithing was to give percent
to the church and percent to various charities.
And they held to that. My father was involved
in United Way and Rotary International, my
mother was involved in what seemed like every
organization in town she was a leader of so
many nonprofit, philanthropic organizations. So
[the idea of giving back] was embedded in me
very early on. It was about giving back in terms
of money and time.
All of these things just made up the fabric of
how we lived our lives and how my parents
saw themselves. the old saying: whom
much is given, much is If been
blessed with good opportunities and a reasonable standard of living, you have an obligation
to give back to those who are less fortunate,
whether through social service organizations,
through church youth groups, visiting nursing
things. Singing Christmas carols
at a nursing home in retrospect sounds kind of
trivial, but how you get started.
Did you resolve to continue giving or was
it just an extension of your upbringing?
I did [make a resolution]. I felt like there was
an obligation to give back when I was in high
school and college and throughout my life. But I
do believe it goes beyond how you
use your time.
How do you manage your philanthropy,
particularly in light of the fact that there
are seemingly infinite causes?
First of all, I think that this phase of life is Erik Erikson developed and identified
is a stage of giving back. I carve out the
time. You have to give priority to the time and
say, is an important thing that I am going
I mentor dozens of people on a regular basis
and always available to help them. My wife,
Penny, chairs the George Family Foundation, and
very involved in that as well. For instance,
today at Georgia Tech, where we gave a $1
million grant to pay for 50 or
60 a go overseas as part of a global
citizen program. I was at Duke yesterday, where
we have a leadership program, talking
about encouraging more female leaders. My wife
is very deeply involved in the Penny George
Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health.
We had a big seminar last week; she was on
stage with two of the leading integrative medicine doctors. Krista Tippett from
moderated and did a fantastic job. We
have a program that we do through the Mind
and Life Holiness the Dalai
extension in the helping to
educate and develop more compassionate, mindful leaders. doing something similar with
Sojourners for women and girls. Sojourners is a
social justice organization in Washington D.C.,
headed up by Jim Wallis. That is just a handful
of things doing. With all of these things,
personal engagement is important.
How do you choose what to support?
My personal passion is leadership and developing better leaders, because I think leaders have
such great impact. So where devoting
both my time and the foundation
and personal money as [support] fellowships. passion is health care, because
of her bout with breast cancer almost 20 years
ago. continued to do a tremendous amount
to bring a holistic approach to health
mind, body and spirit.
said that successful leaders possess
qualities such as empathy, compassion
and courage. Do you think that giving
back is an inherent impulse for leaders?
No, I I think it depends upon their philosophy of leadership. Adam Grant wrote a book two
years ago called Give and Take and if a
giver, yes, inherent. But there are takers. They
want to accumulate the most amount of money,
live in a megahouse and not give back. I have
a passion to change leadership, so that fewer
leaders are just making a lot of money, not giving
back and not being in community.