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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

More than just a liberal

Q: In appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to replace John Paul Stevens, President Obama was seeking someone who could provide intellectual and personal leadership of the liberal block. His gamble in nominating Elena Kagan is bringing in someone from outside the 'priesthood' of appeals-court judges. What are the advantages and disadvantages of selecting a leader with non-traditional qualifications?

Despite never having served as a judge, Elena Kagan is very well qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a distinguished legal scholar, Solicitor General of the United States, and dean of Harvard Law School, she has demonstrated her credentials throughout her career. I doubt that President Obama nominated her because she is a liberal; there are many judges far more liberal than Kagan. Rather, it is her judgment and ability to examine carefully both sides of an issue that qualifies her for the nation's highest court.

In selecting leaders for top positions, the selection process should not be limited to those with the perfect resume, which by definition narrows the pool of available candidates and eliminates many well-qualified people who bring a diversity of experiences to leadership positions. That's the mistake that many corporate boards have made in the past in looking for board members and for "big name" CEOs.

It is much more important to examine carefully the prospective leader's personally qualities, character and values, as demonstrated through their actions over a lifetime, and their fit with the culture of the organization which they are being asked to lead. In cases like this, temperament is much more important than specific experience.

By Bill George

 |  May 10, 2010; 1:13 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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