One of my heroes and all round legend is GE’s incredible Jack Welch. Here are some of his insights collated by Business Insider Australia:
Jack Welch was head of General Electric over two decades before he retired in 2001. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful industrial leaders of the modern age, having increased the value of GE by some 4000% to several hundred billion during his tenure. He famously restructured GE with the goal of having each division No.1 or No.2 in the world in its category.
Since retiring, Welch has also become a bestselling author with his management book, Winning, and his more biographical Jack: Straight from the Gut. His reminiscences on his time at GE are valuable for any business leader or founder not just just because of his track record, but because many of his philosophies of business, leadership, and management could apply to companies of any size.
Here are some of his most instructive insights.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review way back in 1999, Welch was asked what he believed made a good manager. He summed up his view of what he believes good senior people should be doing through an organisation in order to be effective.
I prefer the term “business leader.” Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Above all else, though, good leaders are open. They go up, down, and around their organization to reach people. They don’t stick to the established channels. They’re informal. They’re straight with people. They make a religion out of being accessible. They never get bored telling their story.
Real communication takes countless hours of eyeball to eyeball, back and forth… It is human beings coming to see and accept things through a constant interactive process aimed at consensus. And it must be absolutely relentless.
One of the classic challenges for people leading businesses as their career evolves is dealing with the different scenarios that the business cycle will throw at them over time, some that no amount of training can prepare you for. If you’ve started out with a degree in computer science or philosophy or finance, how can you be prepared for the all the challenges of running a company? And yet some people manage to do it.
Welch was a chemical engineer by training but he was able to lean on some of the critical thinking skills that he learned in university to interrogate business problems effectively. Here he is in his book Jack:
I have always felt that chemical engineering was one of the best backgrounds for a business career, because both the classwork and required thesis teach you one very important lesson: There are no finite answers to many questions. What really counted was your thought process. A typical exam question went something like this: An ice-skater weighs 150 pounds and is doing figure-eights on ice an inch thick. The temperature is rising a degree every ten minutes to 40 degrees, and the wind is blowing 20 miles an hour. When will the skater fall through the ice?