Saturday, 12 May 2007

Becoming a Good Leader - Winning, Jack Welch

Jack Welch is definitely a good source of inspiration for all leaders. He turned GE into a winning company despite all the brutal competitions, with GE stock went up 4,000 percent during his leadership.

In his second book I am reading now, "Winning", he amazes me again with his strong focus on leadership and people management.
He always seemed to introduce new cultures and business philosophy to GE and to the world. Fews of these are the importance of values, candor, differentiation, and voice and dignity for all.

He mentioned that in a lots of companies, people management is what's done when there's time left over. I find this to be very true. He devoted one chapter in the book to talk about people management. I will try to put this up in the next blog, after I finish the chapter.

The message from the book can be distilled into two sentences. "Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." That's why a selfish person is never a leader at all.

There was the ubiquitous question: what does a leader really do? Jack Welch remembers that he ran teams with three experienced people and divisions with 30,000. He managed businesses that were dying and ones that were bursting with growth. There were acquisitions, divestures,
organization crises, moments of unexpected luck, good economies and bad. And there were paradoxes. The biggest paradox was short-term and long-term management. "How
can I manage quarterly results and still do what's right for my business five years out? My answer is: welcome to the job."

And leadership is about performing the balancing acts everyday.

Here, I would like to lay out the 8 rules (as described in the book) for becoming a Good Leader:

1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach and build self-confidence.
A leader is like a gardener, a watering can in one hand and fertilizer in the other.
Occasionally a leader have to pull some weeds, but most of the time, just nurture and tend.

2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breath it.
No jargon. Targets cannot be so blurry that they can't be hit. A common problem is that leaders communicate the vision to close colleagues and it never filters down to people in frontline positions.

3. Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
An upbeat manager with a positive outlook ends up running a team or organization with upbeat people with positive outlooks.

4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and giving credit.
Leaders do not keep secret about their thinking about the poeple and their performances, and what they know about the business and its future.

Leaders do not kiss up and kick down. They are self-confident and mature enough to know their team's success will give them recognition.

5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
Obviously, tough calls spawn complaints and resistance. Your job is to listen and explain yourself
clearly but move forward. You are not a leader to win a popularity contest-you are a leader to lead. Don't run for office. You're already elected.

6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with actions.
When you are an individual contributor, you try to have all the answers. When you are a leader, your job is to have all the questions.

7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example. These two concepts often get lip service and little else.
Too many mangers urge their people to try new things and then punish them when they fail.
And just because you're the boss doesn't mean you're the source of all knowledge. Look outside the organization for best ideas and then show enthusiasm for them.

8. Leaders celebrate.
Imagine a team winning the World Series without champagne spraying everywhere. And yet companies win all the time and let it go without so much as a high five. Work is too much a part of life not to recognize moments of achievement. They summarized the need for leaders to constantly learn how to be good leaders: try something, getting it wrong and learning from it, or getting it right and gaining the selfconfidence to do it again, only better.

Interview with Jack Welch and Suzie Welch:

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