What’s Jack Welch Got To Do With Leadership Anyway?

Leadership Lessons From A Former CEO

I hate to beat up on the grand old man, but Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, is teaching us a lot about leadership lately. At least what not to do.
Jack recently made headlines, tweeting “…these Chicago guys will do anything… can’t debate so change numbers.” Remember that one?
It was just October 5th. Then on October 11th, he published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal defending his claim. 
But my interest here is not about the “Chicago guys” and whether they falsified the Bureau of Labor Statistics September job’s report.
My interest is Jack’s leadership lessons. Here’s one of them:

Everything You Say At The Water Cooler Makes Headlines Tomorrow

As a rising star in your business, be careful what you say at work. Be careful what you tweet. Because everything you say will be repeated. And when you say something really juicy, like “Seems the Old Man finally lost his last marble,” it will be repeated over and over again by your coworkers one to another.

By tomorrow morning the Old Man will hear that you came out of that meeting saying “Rising star says the boss is frigging nuts – claims senility has set in.”
Be very careful whenever you’re negative at work. And please, don’t say bad things about your boss to anyone at work. Whatever you say could be a headline tomorrow that you may deeply regret.
Here’s another famous quote from Jack:
“Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader success is all about growing others.”
Clearly Jack likes sweeping statements. But I must object.

Focus On Growing Others Throughout Your Career

An excellent way to grow your career is to help others be successful too. You must help your boss be successful, right? That’s rule #1. But you benefit by helping your employees be successful too. Even your co-workers?
That’s a bit scary, because when you start your career, you quickly see how competitive everyone is. You’ll have a co-worker or two threatened by how sharp you are. They’ll probably try to undermine your success.  That’s another good reason to become an asset to your boss: protection.
Another thing, always be a leader. Jack seems to be saying when you become a top executive then you can switch your focus to developing others. I say, “Why wait?” 

Learn Leadership By Being The Leader Of One

Always take responsibility for getting things done, for improving your organization, for improving your team. That makes you a leader. You’re the leader of your own life. You’re a leader the minute you start your career, even if you’re supervising only one person: you.
And why stop growing yourself if you make it into a formal “leadership” position? Does it get easier when you get the promotion and the title? Hardly. Your former co-workers will get jealous of you. The competition can increase.
I believe the solution is to make growing yourself and growing others a hallmark of who you are throughout your career. You will be so much happier.
You may even find those that feared you begin to lighten up.  

Don’t Be Negative About Your Company In Social Media!

Social media is the new water cooler. Be careful what you say there because everything you say will make h——-s (fill in the blank) tomorrow.

Don’t Engage The Media On A Negative Story

If you find yourself publicly managing a crisis in the media, by all means be open, accurate and provide as much information as you can. But if the media crisis is due to a scandal or a mistake on your part, don’t fan the flames.
Back off the media when it’s in attack mode. You will not win that battle. Don’t give them more headlines. Just shut up.
Now I know I’m not in the same ballpark with Jack Welch. I’m not even in the same solar system. That man led incredible results for GE. But I like where I’m at, be it ever so humble.
I don’t think I’d like the view from Mt. Olympus anyway.

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