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 values of GE and expected the same of everyone at GE. His actions, and the way he sought to put values in GE, is an important leadership lesson all future business leaders should take from Jack Welch.
Jack Welch’s vision of what GE was possible of gave the company a vision for twenty years while he was the CEO and chairman. He states, “leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it. ” (Winning, pg 67) He not only allowed for employees to stretch, but demanded it. In teaching workers to stretch Welch knew that workers “may fail. In fact, they probably will fail. But stretching, and stretching the business, is going to improve performance results. ” (Jack Welch on Leadership, pg 105) He also states that “only by setting the performance bar high did it become possible to discover people’s capabilities.
” Jack Welch’s emphasis on candor and breaking the bureaucracy of modern business separated him from his contemporaries. He excited others of the possibility of being the biggest and best company in the world and rewarding his best employees that shared the values of GE. According to FORTUNE Editorial Director Geoffrey Colvin In "The Ultimate Manager, Welch leads the annals of management history not for anticipating the new world's changes ahead, but for acting on them: "His great achievement is that having seen it, he faced up to the huge, painful changes it demanded, and made them faster and more emphatically than anyone else in business.
He led managers into this new world, which we still inhabit, and just as important, he showed business people everywhere a method of attacking change of any kind. "(Time Warner) Leaders are people who use their skills in leadership to make a difference, as Jack Welch did in GE. Leadership involves having an impression on others, and inspiring their decisions. Jack Welch did just that, he also believed “leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example” (Winning, pg 63). He inspired others to take risks, and learn from mistakes.
He appealed to others, and inspired them to be better than they thought they could be. Welch was constantly selling others on the idea of being the best. He challenged others to be the best division in their sector with the number one or number two concept, where a division must be number one or number two in their sector or be sold. Jack Welch challenged everything that made GE what it was when he became CEO. In his words, it was a militaristic, bureaucratic company that was slow to change and set in its ways. He challenged the company to embrace change. He believed that “it was nonsense to fear change.
He loved change, arguing that change keeps everyone alert. ” (Jack Welch on Leadership, pg 3) He did this by concepts such as differentiation, candor, and meritocracy. He believed in giving constructive performance evaluations, and rewarding his stars. Welch knew that “change is something that people do not relish easily,” (CEO Exchange) but built a company that accepted and even embraced change. He built a company that learned to love change and see it as an opportunity, just as he did. Jack Welch goes into extensive detail of how communication affects the organization, in particular the use of candor.
His belief is that candor is the cornerstone of cutting through the layers of bureaucracy. He states that, “lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer. ” (Winning, pg. 25) He created “an atmosphere where workers feel free to speak out. ” (Jack Welch on Leadership, pg. 99) He believes straightforward communication allows for information to flow throughout the organization, stimulates great ideas, and allows for constructive criticism to ideas that affect strategy.
I also learned about vision, and strategy from Jack Welch. His belief that there is no secret equation and that all problems should be faced head-on, shows that it is possible for anyone to successfully implement a strategy. In his words, you “create a vision and then get out of the way… People always overestimate how complex business is. This isn’t rocket science. We’ve chosen one of the world’s simplest professions. ” (29 Leadership Secrets from Jack Welch, pg 15) Jack Welch sought to create a leaner, more simplistic, and speedier company through enabling others.
When asked on CEO Exchange why GE was able to stay on top through multiple recessions and one depression Welch responded, “the number one reason why GE remains on top is it’s focus on people. ” He goes on later to say “our core competency [as a leader] is developing human spirit and getting the best [out] of people. ” Jack Welch knew that the key resource in effective organization is personnel. “Jack Welch is the celebrated leader of a global manufacturer often noted for its technological prowess, he has utilized a very human process to drive change through GE's vast organization.
Having respect for the individual as a pivotal force in organizational change, Welch created a model of exceptional performance every corporate leader can learn from… He returned power to the little people: the worker and the shareholder. ”(Time Warner) Great employees are what make the difference between success and failure in a strategy. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell expresses it as, “organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything either. Theories of management don’t much matter.
Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds. ” He goes on to say further, “in a brain-based economy, your best assets are people. ” (Colin Powell’s Leadership Primer) Jack Welch, as CEO of GE, took fitting skills to the vision as a key to successful leadership development. He not only ‘weeded’ out the bottom 10% of performers, but also selectively hired great employees and rewarded them greatly. Jack Welch believes today’s leaders must be able to adapt to different situations and learn from others.
He also believed in the fact that leadership skills are learned and can be improved with experience, training, and confidence. Welch knew that developing leadership skills to be able to handle today’s changing environment takes hard work and a desire to lead others. That is why only the best performers are allowed to attended classes at Crotonville. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership answers the question on how GE can develop so many outstanding leaders. It states, “the company is run by a great leader, Jack Welch. It all starts at the top because it takes a leader to raise up another leader.
Followers can’t do it. Neither can institutional programs. It takes one to know one, show, and grow one. That’s the Law of Reproduction” (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, pg 141) Jack Welch is a leader, a leader that builds others to be leaders. Jack Welch believes leaders are successful by having the ability to use a range of behaviors and the ability adapt different settings. In another quote from CEO Exchange, Jack Welch states, “you want to give people a chance to take a swing. Your job is to let them take a swing… You want them to stretch.
” The mentality of stretching beyond the normal is what he built into GE’s mentality. In enabling and strengthening his employees he not only gave them more discretion, he also gave them more power. Welch flattened the hierarchy and empowered employees to make decisions that they would not have been able to in the past. He also tapped into resources other companies had not when he began his Work-Out program. Welch began to “listen to the people who actually do the work,”(29 Leadership Secrets, pg 81) and by doing so changed his company.
The Work-Out program was similar to a town meeting where employees could discuss issues that they were facing. This program developed trust among employees, spread the GE culture, and allowed employees an arena to fix issues they were facing. The program was a phenomenal success, and another way for Welch to foster collaboration at GE. Jack Welch was a firm believer in encouraging his employees and sought to recognize contributions and celebrate victories, as often as possible. Jack Welch’s belief in rewarding the stars on the team, as well as rewarding the team, shows that he recognized contributions from his employees.
Welch was a leader that showed his appreciation for a job well done, and was the first to celebrate a victory—even a small one. He believed strongly in meritocracy, a belief that the employees should be rewarded for their performance, as well as differentiating between the best performers and getting rid of the bottom 10% of performers. A great example of demonstrating his celebration of values would be when he would take his team to the bar on Friday nights to recap the weeks work and pat everyone on the back.
This, coupled with a friendly work environment, showed how Welch encouraged the heart, even as a young leader. Jack Welch covers a variety of issues in Winning, but answers one question; “What does it take to win? ” He explains, in an insight to his leadership, that winning is nuanced, complex, and brutally hard to explain but achievable. He emphasizes the importance of a strong mission and values, the necessity of great communication and candor in every aspect of management, the power of differentiation based on merit, and the value of each individual receiving voice and dignity.
In conclusion, it should be stated that a leader is a mentor, and his followers should see him or her as a guide for further learning and success. A leader should be sincere and consistent above all else. If a leader is sincere in what he says and consistent with his action, then he can do little wrong. It is increasingly important for today’s leaders to be open to new ideas and concepts, as well as master universal concepts on how to lead an organization. Works Cited Colin Powell. A Leadership Primer from Colin Powell. 2005. The Challey Group. April 15, 2006. Jack Welch; Icon of Leadership. CEO Exchange.
MG 620 course for Week 5. Maxwell, John. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc. , 1998. —. The 360-Degree Leader. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc. , 2005. Slater, Robert. 29 Leadership Secrets from Jack Welch. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2003. —. Jack Welch on Leadership. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2004. Time Warner Newsroom. November 01, 1999. Time Warner. July 01, 2006. Welch, Jack, and Suzy Welch. Winning. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. , 2005 Welch, Jack. Jack: Straight from the Gut. New York, NY. Warner Books. 2001.