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Bill George
Scholar/Former CEO

Bill George

Bill George is a management professor at the Harvard Business School, the former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Inc., and the author of several best-selling books on leadership. His latest release is 7 Lessons for
Leading in Crisis

Persistent But Gracious

Ted Kennedy was a true leader in the U.S. Senate. While other senators played politics, he rose above them to pursue the causes he was passionate about and reached across the aisle to team up with Republican Senators like Orin Hatch (R-UT). After the death of his brother Bobby, he assumed leadership of the Kennedy clan and did so with dignity for more than 40 years. He overcame the disappointments of his younger years, including the tragic deaths of his brothers and the sad events at Chappaquiddick, to become the finest Senator in the U.S.

I vividly recall our meeting exactly 10 years ago when Medtronic was working to gain his support for the FDA reform bill that would enable patients to receive life-saving medical technology on a much more timely basis -- he was the last stop before the legislation was signed into law.

Prior to the meeting, I waited in his ante-room, which was filled with Kennedy memorabilia, and soaked in the connections with world's historical events of the past 40 years. Ever the negotiator, Kennedy started off by saying, "Well, Mr. George, it looks like we have resolved five of our seven points"-- which we had previously conceded in his favor -- "If you can see these last two points our way, we have a deal."

I patiently explained that these were the two most important points of the bill and that eliminating them would emasculate the legislation. After some thoughtful exchanges, he graciously agreed to accept our position. Two days later President Clinton signed the bill into law.

The U.S. Senate has lost a great leader of 45 years who cannot easily be replaced. The story of his validates the premise that out of tragedy can come greatness. Ted Kennedy learned from earlier events in his life and devoted the last 40 years to serving his country with dignity and honor.

By Bill George

 |  August 27, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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