Bill George: World Leaders Need to Think of the World like the Internet

Bill George, Harvard Professor and former CEO, Medtronic, will be keynoting the World Business Forum next Tuesday for the second year in a row. I spoke to him today. Here is some of what he told me:


Bill George, Harvard Professor and former CEO, Medtronic, will be keynoting the World Business Forum next Tuesday for the second year in a row. I spoke to him today. Here is some of what he told me:


Leaders need to think of the world like the Internet. It is less hierarchy and more interconnected than it has ever been before. Successful leaders understand this. They take the time to talk to everyone who has something to say regardless of their title. They find ways to stay in touch. Sure, it’s a lot of work. It’s very intense. It’s a 24/7 kind of thing. But, it is what makes them successful. 

Further they need to deliver in both the short term and the long term. The last generation of leaders focused on the short term at the expense of the long term. You can see it on Wall Street. The value they destroyed was immense.

That said, I have great hope for the new wave of corporate leaders. We are moving toward a more responsible, more engaged leader, looking beyond their business. Today’s leaders want to know what is really going to help, not just make a lot of money. They are adept at balancing immediate priorities with the long haul, and making real progress in both at the same time

I asked George about what he will say at the World Business Forum.

I get to frame the entire two days in the context of leadership, to set the pattern for the whole event. We will have the top leaders from many fields coming together at a time when we need to rethink leadership entirely.

I will draw from the latest events to illustrate my points. Ken Lewis just resigned yesterday. He is the last of the old guard on Wall Street to step aside. Wall Street is going through a massive change. Now we have a whole new generation of leaders on Wall Street. This is very exciting.


But, the recession is not over. I know Bernanke is saying the recession is over. But look, we have another big increase in job losses last month. 10% of Americans are officially unemployed and that number does not count those people who have given up looking for jobs, so it’s really much more. There’s a lot to do.  

This conference, the World Business Forum, is special because it brings the best minds of our time together when we really need it. You have very high profile leaders talking right in the midst of a very challenging and exciting time. This is a great opportunity to learn. Anyone who comes to this conference or reads about it through the blogs will be getting some great information from some of the best thinkers the world has to offer. 

I asked George about the skepticism that is on the street regarding today’s corporate leaders.

We are all regular Joes. It’s not a bunch of elite types talking only to each other, flying around on their personal planes, taking limos to their meetings. These are people just like the guy on the street. We have to get beyond this we-they stuff. We’re all in this together.

The best leaders are finding much more personalized ways to communicate. You are going to see the successful organizations have leaders who know everyone, they make the time to engage.



Join me here, next Tuesday and Wednesday as I cover Bill George’s keynote and the entire World Business Forum live from Radio City Music Hall. I will also be tweeting, so follow me on Twitter, @SethKahan. I will be in great company. Other bloggers covering the event live are:

Wall Street Journal Paul Glader @wsj
The Huffington Post Shahien Nasiripour @huffbusiness Reena Jana @RJMAC
Reuters Felix Salmon @felixsalmon
Newsweek Katie Paul @newsweek What Works for Business Daniel Kehrer@whatworks Adam Christensen @smarterplanet
Jossey-Bass on Leadership Carolyn Carlstroem @josseybassbiz Ben Parr @benparr Zach Clayton @bill_george
The Big Picture Barry Ritholtz
Execunet Lauryn Franzoni @LaurynFranzoni
Execunet Robyn Greenspan @Robyngreenspan
Execunet Joseph McCool
Execunet Jeffrey Sherman Thompson
1 to 1 Media Don Peppers @donpeppers
Path Forward International Julie Lenzer Kirk@YourBoot
Path Forward International Renee Lewis @chiefcatalyst
Thought Bright Blog Robert McNeill
Working Knowledge Andrea Meyer @AndreaMeyer
Working Knowledge Dana Meyer @WorkingKnowledg
Business Boomer Arabella Santiago @businessboomer
Information Playground (EMC) Steve Todd @SteveTodd
Social Media Blog Stu Stuart Miniman @stu
Insights on Leadership and Employee Engagement Michael Lee Stallard @MichaelStallard
Avaya & Buzz Marketing for Tech Paul Dunay @pauldunay
Innoblog Renee Hopkins @Renee_Innosight
Business Strategy Innovation Blog Braden Kelley @innovate Graciela Gonzalez Biondo @HSMAmericas
Time Leadership Jim Estill @JimEstill Michael Mossoba @creativemichael
All Things Workplace Steve Roesler @steveroesler
Orrin Woodward Leadership Team Orrin Woodward@Orrin_Woodward
Influential Marketing Rohit Bhargava @rohitbhargava
Brain Leaders and Learners Dr. Ellen Weber @EllenfWeber
Brain Based Biz Dr. Robyn McMaster @RobynMcMaster
Triple Pundit Jen Boynton @triplepundit
Triple Pundit Nick Aster @triplepundit
Triple Pundit Ryan Mickle @triplepundit
Marketing Thoughts Blog Ken McArthur @kenmcArthur
Training Magazine’s Training Day Blog Margery Weinstein@margeryw
Awake at the Wheel Jonathan Fields @jonathanfields
Hot Mommas Project Kathy Korman Frey @chiefhotmomma Philip Stott @VaultCareers Linda Petock @VaultCareers
Economist Mom Diane Lim Rogers @EconomistMom
Hank Wasiak Hank Wasiak @hankwasiak
Chris Brady’s Leadership Blog Chris Brady @rascaltweets
The Complete Innovator Boris Pluskowski @bpluskowski
PR Mama Stephanie Smirnov @ssmirnov
Ramblings from a Glass Half Full Terry Starbucker @Starbucker
Conference Hound Jordan Enright-Schulz @conferencehound
Conference Hound Bruce Carlisle @conferencehound
Successful Blog Liz Strauss @lizstrauss
Collaboration Solutions in Industry Segments Bob Preston@BobPrestonCCO
5 Blogs Before Lunch David Allen Ibsen @daveibsen
Angry Bear Dan Crawford @angrybearecon
Angry Bear Ken Houghton @angrybearecon
Tree Hugger Matthew McDermott @matmcdermott

– Seth 


Seth Kahan is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a community of CEOs working together to innovate through the current economy. His next book, Getting Change Right: Guaranteeing Buy-In from Your Most Valuable Players, will be published in spring 2010 by Jossey-Bass.Visit his other blog, for more info on the book.  


About the author

I help leaders with change, innovation, and growth. My latest book is "Getting Innovation Right." My first book, "Getting Change Right," was a business bestseller. home office: (301) 229-2221, USA - email: