Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Jack Welch — Leadership Style & Principles

According to leadership legend Jack Welch, great leaders possess a generosity gene that produces inspiration for helping people grow. That being said, what are the key distinctive leadership style & principles of Jack Welch? How did Jack Welch become one of the most successful CEOs in the world? What can we learn from Jack Welch’s growth mindset and leadership style?

Jack Welch joined GE as a junior chemical engineer in 1960. Slowly he began to grow in his career and by 1981, he became CEO of General Electric.

That time, the company was worth $12 billion. Twenty years later, when Jack was about to retire, it was worth a total of $280 billion. He transformed GE’s business and revolutionized the company’s entire corporate culture with his distinctive, highly personal leadership style.

Jack Welch knew that revolutions begin at the top.

He made GE leaner, tougher, and more competitive by ignoring the common sentiment that GE was too iconic to be tampered with. Instead, he applied a survival of the fittest rule to his businesses and his team. Those who succeeded were those who were needed.

Jack Welch gained a solid reputation for uncanny business acumen and unique leadership strategies.

His innovative and unorthodox management practices, though occasionally scrutinized, became the stuff of legends. He remains a highly regarded figure in business circles due to his innovative management strategies and leadership style.

Effective leadership comes down to a lot of key factors.

The ability to embrace change, lead without micromanaging, hire and develop the right people, see the facts for what they are, and stay focus amidst the day-to-day worries. All are key to any leader’s success this year and in the years to follow.

Jack Welch is a veritable leadership guru. So what’s the key to being a successful leader? What’s the secret to inspiring and motivating people to do their very best?

Today we’re going to explore leadership principles and lessons that legendary former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, has for the leaders of today and tomorrow. Here are some of our favorite lessons from his leadership style.

Lesson #1: Leaders Celebrate

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles: Leaders celebrate

Sure, you may have a holiday party — but what do you do to recognize your team’s achievements? How do you reward valuable team members for a job well done? Celebrate your successes and you’re bound to have more of them.

According to Jack Welch, your team needs to feel like the office is the the cool kid’s basement.

If you have a unit, you want the six people in your unit to think they have the world by the a — and the same thing if you have a 400,000-person GE. Recognize and appreciate team successes. The office cannot have a dour energy.

Jack Welch staunchly advocated that leaders celebrate their teams’ victories and achievements no matter how small or big.

It would be understandable if all companies can’t send employees and their families to places like Disneyland (like Jack Welch suggested) but, teams can celebrate with an outing to fun place once in a while.

As a leader you will want to energize others. Your job is the create the environment for them to thrive, then let them do so.

Genuine leadership comes from the quality of your vision and your ability to spark others to extraordinary performance. Getting employees excited about their work is the key to being a great business leader.

Positive reinforcement is more than just a principle of behavioral psychology — it’s a habit that should be integrated into the corporate culture.

Jack Welch appreciated the value of praising and celebrating not only the big victories, but also the smaller ones along the way. After all, it’s the attainment of the little goals that pave the way for the big wins.

Lesson #2: Leaders Face Reality

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Facing reality often means saying or doing things that are not popular. After all, who wants to hear that business is bad? But only by coming to grips with the reality can you take steps to create change and act upon it.

Don’t be ignorant to the facts — exploit what works and eliminate that which does not.

Jack tells us leaders need to be constantly updated on all the pertinent facts related to running and growing your business. If you ignore them, you’re doomed to fail. Jack had a lot of market analysis and cleaning up to do when he took over the helm of GE back in 1981. He saw that times were changing and that while some of the company’s assets were still making plenty of profit, they weren’t good for the its long-term growth potential.

Face reality, then act decisively.

Most mistakes that leaders make arise from not being willing to face reality and then acting on it. No where can reality change more quickly than technology. Remove maybes. Don’t try to cover all bases. Pick where to go then allocate the necessary resources.

Rely on facts, not interpretations. When Jack presents his achievements, abilities as facts and not as interpretations.

Though he had good knowledge of plastic materials, he never called him a Plastics Expert. He just presented the facts. Some of his colleagues loved his way of dealing with people and followed it but Jack never interpreted that as ability to inspire. If you are calling yourself as influencer, thought-leader, expert, think about it. It might be your interpretations. Present them in facts.

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.

Most mistakes that leaders make arise from not being willing to face reality and then acting on it. Facing reality often means saying and doing things that are not popular, but only by coming to grips with reality will things get better.

Lesson #3: Leaders Make Gut Calls

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Following intuition when the facts say otherwise. That’s one of the virtues of game-changing leaders.

A gut call is a decision based on something that a leader feels strongly about though it may appear against rationale decision making on the surface.

Never shy away from such decisions because gut calls are essentially an experienced person’s subconscious pattern recognition skills at work. If you are an experienced leader about to hire somebody who ticks all the right boxes but still gives you a very uncomfortable feeling without you being able to point out precisely why, it would be better not to hire him.

Making a “gut call”, can deliver successful results if based on relevant experience, knowledge of the situation and emotional intelligence that weighs up the likely outcomes.

Intuition relies on knowledge, a deep level of experience and being able to put oneself in the other person’s situation. A mature and disciplined leader is able to move between the types of decision making to cope with complex subtasks or deal with new situations. 

Authentic leaders know themselves. They don’t depend solely on the hard facts.

Instead, they rely on their inner instincts and aren’t afraid to trust themselves, even if that means going against the grain when a situation dictates. Research has shown that when you combine this gut instinct with a thorough review of data, it can improve your decision-making in big, bold ways.

Intuitive leaders are generally passionate about life and work.

This passion is infectious and tends to display in the hearts and minds of those around them. Thus, it generates a desire to excel and a commitment to make things happen at the organizational level. As such, they are great motivators too.

Lesson #4: Leaders Get Rid of Bureaucracy

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Eliminate boundaries. In order to make sure that people are free to reach for the impossible, you must remove anything that gets in their way. Boundaries are created no only by obstacles, they are also created by lack of resources and support, or inquisitive paperwork.

Keep bureaucracy to the absolute minimum required to scale with predictability and quality.

According to Jack Welch, the best way to harness the power of your people is to turn them loose, and get the management layers off their backs, the bureaucratic shackles off their feet and the functional barriers out of their way.

As companies grow, they become far more complex — often adding layers and layers of rules.

Look at ways to get rid of old rules that no longer serve a purpose. Streamline decision-making. If it takes a week to make a decision; simplify it. Drive some dynamism into your organization. Make the workplace more informal. Encourage dialogue; keep meetings conversational and less rigid.

Turn your company into a learning organization to spark free flow of communication and exchange of ideas. Create a truly confident workforce.

Confidence is a vital ingredient of any learning organization. The prescription for winning is speed, simplicity, and self-confidence. Self-confident people are open to good ideas regardless of their source and are willing to share them.

Business is all about capturing intellect from every person. The way to engender enthusiasm it to allow employees far more freedom and far more responsibility.

If people are not involved, they have little reason to be creative and add more to the pie. Find lots of simple ways of brightening meetings, from mixing up dress codes, making them informal meetings, ‘no notes or phones allowed meetings’, whatever it takes to get colleagues to feel free to share their ideas.

Lesson #5: Leaders Embrace Change

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

When Jack Welch joined GE, many didn’t understand why he needed to make changes. They saw things as a bed of roses, while Jack Welch saw the reality and faced it. He initiated the necessary changes to make GE a far more flexible and competitive organization.

Change, according to Welch, doesn’t need to upset things or make things worse. It can mean opportunities, good ideas, new business or new products.

Jack is known for being among the most hard-nosed, adaptive leaders to ever manage a major corporation. He spent twenty years rising through the ranks of the company during the sixties before taking over leadership and really catapulting the conglomerate from a few measly billion in market value, to a $280-billion empire upon his retirement in 2001.

Change, before you have to. It is a big part of the reality in business.

New ideas are the lifeblood of business. And the basis for creative change. Willingness to change is strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while. Keeping an eye out for change is both exhilarating and fun.

Change is perhaps the only constant in the world that surrounds us. However, we tend to resist change. We see it as a threat to a comfortable, stress-free existence.

By embracing change, you become adaptable, more capable of handling whatever life throws at you. For a leader with a proactive attitude, change also means opportunity. It opens doors, develops new skills, and creates new knowledge. Change opens the path to excellence.

Leaders set the strategy and are responsible for achieving the goals of the change. When they resist, change doesn’t have a chance.

Organizational change is most effective when paired with strong leadership. It’s imperative that leaders prepare for and respond to change in order for the organization and it’s employees to thrive. Change is welcome because it brings the opportunity to innovate, transform and ignite growth.

Lesson #6: Leaders Put Values First

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Don’t focus too much on the numbers. According to Jack Welch, numbers aren’t the vision; numbers are the products. I have seen vision destroyed when organizations shift to much of their focus from it to quarterly or monthly numbers.

Leaders must ensure that the vision filters down to everyone. It’s your role as a leader to make the team’s vision come alive.

Be specific; avoid jargon and vague goals. Leaders talk about vision constantly, to the point that they are sick of hearing themselves. I’m sure my teams are tired of hearing me — and that’s a good thing!

Craft your vision pitch. Sell your vision to get the best people on your team.

According to Jack Welch, leadership starts when you show people where you are going, what your dream is, where you are going to be. Your team needs to feel that you have a clear sense of where you are going as a company.

Jack Welch states that if you want people to live and breathe the vision, show them the money, be it with salary, bonus or significant recognition.

While a vision is an essential element, it is worth nothing unless it is well communicated, reinforced and bought to life with rewards. If an employee, when pounded with a vision, asks himself “what’s in it for me?” and gets a satisfactory answer, he’ll start living that vision too.

Keep your vision out front in whatever capacity is possible for you given your role in the organization.

If you want to be visionary, you have to actively keep the vision alive through action. A vision that’s carefully developed and then rarely discussed is pointless. Most visions fail because leaders get bored of talking about them.

Lesson #7: Leaders Don't Manage

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles

Jack Welch doesn’t like the term ‘manage’. To him, it conjures up negative images, such as keeping people in the dark and controlling and stifling people. His goal is to lead, create a vision and make people passionate about their work.

Embrace leadership; don’t manage.

Jack Welch said that there was a time when managers literally did nothing but sit at a desk — supervising and dishing out orders to those underneath them. They didn’t spend time talking to employees, they never sought to inspire them to climb bigger mountains, and they never encouraged them to think outside the box either.

Managing processes is the job of managers. Leaders pick the best people and inspire them.

In order to break into successful leadership, you need to get out from behind the desk and immerse yourself in all aspects of the business. Leadership requires knowledge of all the fundamentals.

Leaders make sure that the right people are in the right seats, support and advance those who are, and move out those who aren’t.

A leader is a coach: guiding, critiquing, and helping their team improve performance. There is no event in your day that can’t be used to help build someone’s self-confidence. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.

The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important — and then get out of their way while they do it.

Making your organization a meritocracy means choosing whoever is the most qualified for the position — not necessarily a drinking buddy! The leaders of today would be well advised to follow Jack Welch’s lead and give everyone a chance to prove themselves through hard work and dedication.

Final Thoughts

Jack Welch - Leadership Style & Principles - Final Thoughts
When you are a leader, your job is to have all the questions. You have to be incredibly comfortable looking like the dumbest person in the room. Every conversation you have about a decision, a proposal, or a piece of market information has to be filled with you saying, “What if?” and “Why not?” and “How come?Jack Welch

Genuine leadership comes from the quality of your vision and your ability to spark others to extraordinary performance. Getting employees excited about their work is the key to being a great business leader.

Managers turn the crank, leaders inspire. Leaders are people who share their vision of how things can be done better.

Create a vision and then ignite your organization to make this vision a reality. Get people so passionate about what they are doing that they cannot wait to execute this plan. Have great energy, competitive spirit and the ability to spark excitement and achieve results.

The first obstacle to change in the workplace is getting people to accept that change is needed.

Jack’s success story teaches that as a leader, you need to delivering a sobering reality check. Telling this story prior to delivering your reality check is a good way to prime your audience to accept and appreciate being dealt with whatever eye-opening truth you’re about to deliver.

His leadership lessons leave an indelible mark on me.

They have proven to be universal principles for many leaders who have gone on to lead high-performing enterprises. While Jack may be gone, he will not be forgotten. Don’t hard on the numbers, let values rule your business and organization.

Thank you, Jack Welch, for being a great teacher to so many of us.

Do you consider yourself a successful leader or do you want to be one? If this article inspired you, do not just nod your head and continue to do what you have always done. Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Jack Welch – Leadership Style & Principles in The Spotlight

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