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Leadership Lessons From Controversial Jack Welch


Jack Welch passed away last week.  During his 20-year tenure as chairman and CEO of General Electric, Welch led a huge increase in market cap.  The year before Welch became CEO, GE posted about $27 billion in revenue. In his last full year as CEO, the company had nearly $130 billion in revenue.

Personally, I love his books because they are real, raw, and direct.  However, while Welch is loved in some circles and condemned in others, I think there are some important leadership lessons that we can learn from the man who was named ‘Manager of the Century’ by Fortune in 1999.

Some of the greatest gifts that I think Welch left us with are:

·        Take calculated risks.

·        Successful companies – and people – are agile.

·        Fix it, close it, or sell it (Welch credits Peter Drucker for this advice).

·        Be direct, informal, and accessible.

·        Low performing employees should be improved and if that does not work, filter them out of your company.

The last lesson is by far the most controversial, but one that I evangelize about every week when I keynote.  In order to succeed, you must have a solid performer with a positive attitude in every chair.  Why?  Because if you don’t, it can negatively impact other employees, causing them to check out and disengage.  No one can do their best work when they are surrounded by a slacker or a person with a toxic attitude.

WHAT CAN I DO, JILL?  Take Welch’s gifts to us to heart.  Select at least two bullets above and commit to mastering them.  Will you ever be a perfect leader?  It’s not likely, but that’s not the goal.  We are all here in ‘Earth School’ – learning, growing, and becoming better.  As long as you remain curious and continually stretch yourself, you will graduate with honors.