Leaders & Leadership | thoughts from GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt

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The General Electric company is consistently recognized as an excellent breeding ground for future business leaders. So much so, that many of the current Fortune 500 leaders today rotated through GE doors before they became CEO. Jim McNerney, Chairman & CEO of Boeing, came from GE. Bob Nardelli, ex-CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler as well. So did David Cote, CEO of Honeywell. The list goes on.

The only other institution with such a reputation is Harvard.

“Firms led by CEOs who were trained at GE will outperform firms led by CEOs who were not; GE’s reputation for developing CEO talent is, in fact, well deserved and not mere hype; and GE appears to develop more CEO talent than other noted CEO talent-generating firms.” – Ivey Business Journal

So when GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt shares his thoughts on leadership and the evolving role of leaders, the Korporate Klimber pays attention.

Here’s what Jeff wrote recently |

[Recently], Aon Hewitt named GE the #1 company for developing leaders. They are an HR consulting company, so their designation means a lot. GE always ranks near the top of the list, but it is nice to be #1. A few days earlier, the Hay Group, another HR consulting firm, named GE #2 on its list of best companies for leadership.

The ratings are based on: practices and culture; global development; business and leadership strategy; reputation; and financial performance. GE tends to do well across all of the categories … that is one of our strengths.

One of the reasons GE has endured as a respected company is our commitment to leadership. However, I have always believed that “leadership has no shelf life.” In other words, as times change, techniques and emphasis must change as well. In our volatile world, leadership must adapt.

Great leaders embrace change. You, as an aspiring leader, should never accept the status quo or the phrase “Well, this is how it’s always been done.” People who say that will never become leaders. Change in inevitable. Success requires us to not only embrace the idea of change, but also that one become an agent for change.

Jeff goes on to say |

So let’s start with the elements of leadership that stand the test of time: a commitment to performance, a foundation of integrity and a desire to learn. These have been traits of good GE leaders for more than 100 years. They will – they must – never change. And, we stand by these foundations in good times and bad.

Pay attention. This is important.

Commitment to performance – You’ve got to work hard. There’s no way around it. No shortcuts. No “hacks”. But notice that he says “commitment to performance” not commitment to hard work. This means that it’s the end result i.e. the quality of the product you deliver that determines the quality of your performance. And as we all know, every high quality product requires hard work and attention to detail.

Foundation of integrity – Success without integrity will not last. Just look at Elliot Spitzer. He was the best attorney general that New York state ever had. He became governor. He was going to be the next president of the United States. Then, he gets caught for hiring prostitutes. This guy, who was the poster child for upholding the law, does something illegal. He lost his integrity. He lost the trust of those who put him up on a pedestal.

If success is built on relationships, and if relationships require trust, then how can one be successful without integrity?

Do the right thing. Always.

Desire to learn – The world is changing and so are the requirements of the workplace. Many of the skills that were important to succeed at a job just a decade ago are obsolete today. Adapt or become irrelevant. Learning and knowing new things, keeps you relevant.

No one likes stale potato chips. Keep yourself fresh. Never stop learning.

Here’s Jeff again |

But leadership must evolve with the times. Let me describe three aspects of leadership that are vastly different today than when I was growing up in the company.

Today, leaders must be deep first and broad second. The emphasis on a “general leader” is declining. Domain matters. Our best leaders have great instincts for markets, customers, data. General leaders can do ok for 2 or 3 years. Domain leaders build ideas that last.

Today, leaders must be risk managers not control freaks. I grew up in a controls-based company. But, the environment was easier. Good leaders today manage the 3-4 things that really count; they know how to prioritize.

Today, purpose is more important than process. In the past, we were more of a process-oriented company. Doing things the right way is still important today. However, in this slow-growth world, outcomes for our customers matter most. Leaders must have a passion for winning.

Passion for winning! You’ve already got that. That’s why you’re reading this blog and this article. Otherwise you’d be going through slides of top 10 twerkers in Romania or something.

Now all you need to do is develop the other skills.

Keep Klimbing.

 

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