“Without a real sense of purpose, leaders are at the mercy of their egos and narcissistic vulnerabilities.” This quote from True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George identifies the need for leaders, like you, to identify the purpose of your leadership. The book proved very meaningful and inspiring for me.

In the case of dairy executives, this leadership is crucial to your dairy farm business, as well as to the community or industry groups in which you participate. Your purpose, your True North, is the internal compass that guides you through life. Discovering and staying true to this purpose is a life-long journey for the authentic leader. The author describes authentic leaders as “genuine people who are true to themselves and what they believe.” 

The following are a few of my key takeaways from the book:

  • Integrity is having clear values that you follow in all aspects of your life —professional, family, community and personal.
  • Following your passion is crucial to finding your purpose, your True North.
  • Because leadership can be lonely, having mentors, family, professional colleagues and personal friends to turn to for help, support and guidance is crucial.
  • Most excellent leaders have made a transformation from “I” to “we.” This transformation, often rooted in a difficult leadership situation, happens when we grow from believing leadership is about our own personal success to understanding that leadership is about motivating and empowering others to lead.
  • Authentic leadership requires that you develop trusting relationships based on mutual respect.
  • George emphasizes what we have talked about often in this column — that we want people to follow us because they want to, not because they have to. He emphasizes that true power is much greater than formal power. He comes to an interesting conclusion: “The irony is that the more power one accumulates, the less it should be used.”

Leadership Lesson: A crystal clear understanding of one’s purpose as a leader is essential in order to lead with integrity and find true success.

Bob Milligan is Senior Consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC and Professor Emeritus at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He can be reached at rmilligan@trsmith.com or 651-647-0495.