Monday, March 28, 2005

Jack’s Back!

Jack Welch is back, with a new bride and a new book with all the answers.

Okay, enough cynicism. The former CEO of General Electric, poster boy for successful professional manager, is trying to win back his reputation after being humiliated during his divorce proceedings when his ex-wife’s lawyers blabbed about all his retirement perks. (“I never even used the Knicks tickets,” he says now.)
His new book, Winning (published April 5), is co-written with his new wife Suzy (former editor of the Harvard Busniess Review), and looks like a big deal. (When Dan Rather does his first post-anchorman interview with Jack and Suzy, remember they’re just selling books.)

Winning has some interesting things to say, though. Jack has wrestled with what made him and his people successful over 30 years, and is now dispensing that accumulated wisdom. According to the excerpts published online by Newsweek, some of it is pretty pedestrian, while other parts are highly personal – some even controversial.

(Consider Jack’s view on work-life balance, for instance: “Bosses know that the work-life policies in the company brochure are mainly for recruiting purposes and that real work-life arrangements are negotiated one on one in the context of a supportive culture, not in the context of, "But the company says ...!"
“People who publicly struggle with work-life balance problems and continually turn to the company for help get pigeonholed as ambivalent, entitled, uncommitted, incompetent—or all of the above.”)
Watch for the fur to fly as that gets out.

But Jack also has some positive advice on dealing with what he rightly calls the paradox of leadership. For instance, I like what he says about how leaders learn.


"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. 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?" Questioning, however, is never enough. You have to make sure your questions unleash debate and raise issues that get action.”

You’ll find lots more Welchisms at

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