The secrets of the very best leaders: Jack Welch

November 11, 2020

What does it mean to be a great leader? It can sometimes feel like you need to have all of the answers yourself. Yet the most successful leaders are those who have an insatiable curiosity, a hunger for learning and who recognise that there are always lessons to be learned from others.

In this series we’ll be bringing you tips, tools and advice from the best leaders, past and present. This week, we look at lessons to learn from Jack Welch.

Recognised as one of the greatest of his time, Jack Welch transformed GE from a company known for lightbulbs and appliances into one of the World’s most diverse and valuable companies. Here are some of our favourite lessons from his leadership.

Don’t manage every excruciating detail. Leaders know that it is their job to see the big picture. Don’t get caught up in managing minutiae. Surround yourself with great people and trust them to do their jobs.

Involve everyone and welcome great ideas from everywhere. Don’t miss the opportunity to gather ideas from all areas. Sometimes the quietest person has the best ideas. 

Brainstorm with colleagues and bosses. Find lots of simple ways of brightening meetings, from mixing up dress codes, making them informal meetings, ‘no notes or phones allowed meetings’, wine, food, whatever it takes to get colleagues to feel free to share their ideas (even more creative thinking required for the virtual meeting!)

Get rid of bureaucracy. As companies grow, they become far more complex – often adding layers and layers of rules. Look at ways to get rid of old rules that no longer serve a purpose. Streamline decision-making. If it takes a week to make a decision; simplify it. Drive some dynamism into your organisation. Make the workplace more informal. Encourage dialogue; keep meetings conversational and less rigid.

Face Reality. That often means saying or doing things that are not popular. After all, who wants to hear that business is bad? But only by coming to grips with the reality can you take steps to create change and act upon it.