I have learned many lessons from Jack Welch on leadership. Jack Welch has been with the General Electric Company (GE) since 1960. Having taken over GE with a market capitalization of about $12 billion, Jack Welch turned it into one of the largest and most admired companies in the world by the time he stepped down as its CEO 20 years later, in 2000. Jack Welch used his uncanny instincts and unique leadership strategies to run GE, the most complex organization in the world and increased its market value by more than $400 billion over two decades. He remains a highly regarded figure in business circles due to his innovative leadership style. Jack Welch demonstrated Kouzes and Posner’s five practices of modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart, by both his words and his actions. Jack demonstrated the five principles so well that it is nearly impossible to separate his actions by the five principles because his actions can fit into all five categories. The most significant points include how open and candid Jack tried to be during his career. He constantly tried to model the way and inspire a vision of where General Electric should go by enabling others and challenging the status quo. He enabled others to act by creating an informal environment with less bureaucracy and a flatter hierarchy. Welch’s belief in people and their many complexities, as well as his sincere desire to teach and better others is an outstanding leadership lesson for all leaders.
Jack Welch modeled the way throughout his time at General Electric by thought is words and his behavior. In his interview on CEO Exchange he detailed how his management-training program at Crotonville was essential in clarifying his views and directions for the company. The leadership principles he preaches have changed the corporate paradigm, and will be used for many years, but would not have been possible without his unending dedication and passion of speaking to everyone in the organization. Welch is a firm believer in constantly communicating his values across as many venues as possible. Clarifying values, and more importantly the values of GE was important, “values are just behaviors—specific, nitty-gritty, and so descriptive that they leave little to the imagination. People must be able to use them as marching orders because they are the how of the mission, the means to the end—winning,” he goes on further to say that “clarity around values and behaviors is not much good unless it is backed up. To make values really mean something, companies have to reward the people who exhibit them and ‘punish’ those who don’t.” (Winning, pg’s 17, 20) He states that open conversation and constantly talking allows for a sharing of ideas. The sharing of ideas gives employees a voice, and allows for leaders to understand members of their organizations. In Jack Welch on Leadership, he states that as a leader you must “be simple, be consistent, and hammer your message home.” As a leader it is paramount to be consistent as possible, it’s “the only way to change people’s minds.” (Jack Welch on Leadership, pg.24)
Throughout Welch’s interviews and writings he has never wavered on the absolute need for integrity. In Jack: Straight from the Gut, he states “everyday at GE it was integrity. It was our No. 1 value. Nothing came before it. We never had a corporate meeting where I didn’t emphasize integrity in my closing remarks.” (pg 280) He set the example at all times, and always practiced what he spoke. In an interview on CEO Exchange he stated, “you can tell anybody anything, it’s in the doing that counts.” Welch was judged as one of the toughest bosses in America, but also one of the fairest. His candor and confrontational style changed GE’s culture. He cut straight to the point in his dealings and expected everyone to know what they were talking about. He aligned his actions with the...
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