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Jack Welch’s Leadership Lessons Cheat Sheet by

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When Jack Welch took over GE in 1981 and became the youngest CEO in GE’s history, the legendary leader made a resolution to transform GE into the world’s most compet­itive enterp­rise. Welch is a strategic thinker, business teacher, corporate icon and management theorist. If leadership is an art, then surely Welch has proved himself a master painter. With his unique leadership style and character, Welch made history during his 2-decade journey at GE. While most leaders talk a good game on leader­ship, he lived it. In this article, features Welch’s 12 lessons and how they contri­buted to the largest corporate makeover in history.

LEAD, Not Manage

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’. Welch’s goal is to lead, create a vision and make people passionate about their work. Leader­ship, according to Welch, can be found in anyone as long as they contri­bute, come up with good ideas and can energize, excite and inspire rather than enervate, depress and control.
Below are tips to become a great leader like Welch:
· Articulate a vision and lead others to execute it
· Don’t manage very little details
· Involve everyone and welcome great ideas


When people voice their ideas, or call him ‘Jack’ instead of ‘Mr. Welch’ or when his Work-Out process is utilized, the corpor­ation gets less formal. Jack doesn’t wear ties to work, he often holds informal meetings and encourages everyone to lighten up. Inform­ality inspires people to have more ideas and it is one of the keys to GE’s success. How can we get less formal?
· Brainstorm with colleagues and bosses
· Hold more informal meetings
· Consider occasional informal get-to­gethers

Don’t TOLERATE Bureau­cracy, BLOW it Up!

Bureau­cracy, the cancerous element of an organi­zation, can create waste and slow the decision making process, leading to unnece­ssary approvals and procedures that make a company less compet­itive. Welch stressed that each employee should work on getting rid of bureau­cracy every day. Bureau­cracy can be the most stubborn disease, but we can simplify and remove complexity and formality to make a company more responsive and agile.
To ‘kick’ bureau­cracy and simplify things:
· Drop unnece­ssary work
· Work with colleagues to streamline decision making
· Make your workplace more informal

Face REALITY. Stop Assuming

When Welch joined GE, the company was assumed to be in good shape, but Welch saw a sinking ship and many troubl­es-the company was losing its market value and there was too much bureau­cracy. Instead of ‘kidding himself’ and assuming that things would improve, Welch made a resolution and created a “face reality” decree. He laid out strategies and initia­tives that made things better.
Here are sugges­tions to help us see things as they are and not to ‘assume’:
· Look at things with a fresh eye
· Don’t fall into the ‘false scenarios’ trap
· Leave yourself with several options


Welch doen’t think business has to be compli­cated, thus, his goal at GE was to de-com­plicate the work. He developed and initiated a signature program that made GE a simpler organi­zation. To Welch, business can be exciting and simple, without jargon and comple­xity. Isn’t simpli­fying things great? It allows our organi­zations to move along faster. Let’s try Welch’s advice:
· Simplify the workplace
· Make meetings simpler
· Eliminate compli­cated memos and letters

Management by Leaders Mind Map


CHANGE- An Opport­unity, Not a Threat

When Welch joined GE, many didn’t understand why he needed to make changes. They saw things as ‘a bed of roses’, while Welch saw the reality and faced it. He initiated the necessary changes to make GE a far more flexible and compet­itive organi­zation. He made ‘change’ a part of GE’s shared value. Change doesn’t need to upset things or make things worse. It can mean opport­uni­ties, good ideas, new business or new products.
So, what are we going to do to cope with change?
· Know that change is here to stay
· Expect the least expected, but move quickly to stay a step ahead
· Prepare those around you for the inevitable change that will affect their lives

Lead by Energizing Others

Lead by Energizing Others, not Managing by Author­ity
Leadership does not mean control or command. Welch called his leadership ideal ‘bound­ary­less’, which means an open organi­zation, free of bureau­cracy and anything that prevents the free flow of ideas, people and decisions. He did not support the ‘i-am-­the­-bo­ss-­and­-yo­u-w­ill­-do­-wh­at-­i-say’ style. He preferred inspiring others to want to perform. To make others passionate about doing their jobs:
· Never lead by intimi­dation
· Let others know exactly how their efforts are helping the organi­zation
· Send handwr­itten thank-you notes to colleagues and customers

Defy, not Respect Tradition

As the ‘heir’ of the world’s most sacred corporate instit­utions, Welch had a choice of whether to respect the company’s tradition and long-s­tanding reputation for excellence or defy a century of history, rocking the existing boat. Welch made the riskiest move - defying most every aspect of the company’s history to make GE the most compet­itive enterprise in the world. To him, what worked in the past would not necess­arily work in the future.
Let’s look at Welch’s tips for success:
· Hold a ‘why do we do it that way?’ meeting
· Invite colleagues from your department to contribute one idea on changing something important at the company
· Don’t be afraid to buck conven­tional wisdom

Don’t Make Hierarchy Rule, but Intellect

Welch thinks it is a horrible way to run a business when managers rule and the staff listen and do what the managers say. To him, it prevents good ideas and creative solutions to problems. Welch believed business is about capturing intellect and that the organi­zation must encourage people to articulate their ideas and solutions. To do so, Welch turned GE into a learning organi­zation in which ideas and intellect rule over tradition and hierarchy.
How we can immerse ourselves in learning?
· Spend 1 hour per week learning what compet­itors are doing
· Offer a reward for the best idea
· Work for organi­zations committed to training and learning

Pounce Everyday, Don’t Move Cautiously

In today’s lightn­ing­-paced compet­itive arena and wired world, Welch knows there is no time to deliberate or consider thoughts. He wants his employees to ‘pounce everyday’, move faster than compet­itors to win business, please customers and snap up opport­uni­ties. His strategies were to remove the shackles from employee’s feet so they could move quickly. How to live this edict?
· Live with a sense of urgency
· Make decisions faster
· Work harder

Put Values First, not Numbers

Certainly Welch cares about the numbers, but he doesn’t want to spend too much time on figures and not enough time on values. GE’s values are not based on antiquated ideas about etiquette and proper behavior. Instead, the values include pleasing customers, disdaining bureau­cracy, thinking globally and being open to ideas.
To balance the attention of numbers and values:
· Don’t harp on the numbers
· Lead by examples
· Let values rule

Don’t try to Manage Everyt­hing, Manage Less

This means no micro managing details. Companies should encourage their employees to have their own opinions and think for themse­lves. Welch believes it is the respon­sib­ility of the company to provide the tools and training, employees need to perform their jobs better. It is the manager’s job to create the vision and let their team act on it. It is best to stay away from ‘over manage­ment’. To avoid being a micro-­man­ager:
· Don’t get bogged down in meanin­gless details
· Manage less
· Empower, delegate, get out of the way

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