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Jack Welch: A Tough Boss and A Thought Leader

His mother taught him how to take defeat in his stride, and see things as they are. Jack said “If I have any leadership style, a way of getting the best out of people, I owe it to her (his Mother).” Her style of motivating Jack was in lines with McClelland’s motivation theory of leadership. She taught him the need to excel. This helped Jack, in developing self-confidence, courage, and competitiveness. He considered building self-confidence in others as a great trait of a leader, which his mother used to do for him. Jack had a problem of stuttering during his childhood. His mother pacified, “It is because you are so smart, no one’s tongue could keep up with brain like yours”. This made him believe that his mind worked faster than his mouth. It boosted Jack’s morale and self-confidence.

He did his schooling at Salem3. He continued his spirit of competitiveness at school level.

Jack actively participated in all the games at his school. He played football, basketball, hockey, and fastball, but Caddy4 was the game in which he claimed his expertise. Jack pursued his degree in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts. When he got disqualified in naval ROTC5 scholarship program, though he was a bit depressed, he saw a better opportunity to excel at the University of Massachusetts, amidst relatively lower competitiveness. Jack completed his Masters in chemical engineering and Doctoral program on condensation in Steam Supply systems at the University of Massachusetts.

After completion of his Doctoral program, Jack had two options of job. One from Exxon, to work in a developmental laboratory in Texas City6 and another one from General Electrics (GE) to work in a new chemical development operation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Jack chose the latter and joined General Electrics plastics division in the year 1960.

A Tough Boss and A Thought LeaderSix Rules for Successful Leadership from Jack Welch

  1. Control your destiny or someone else will.
  2. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
  3. Be candid with everyone.
  4. Don’t manage, lead.
  5. Change before you have to.
  6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

The August issue of 1984 of the Fortune magazine covered the “Ten toughest bosses in America” which was topped by Jack. The aggressive leadership style of Jack had to face critics often. Jack was known as a rude, impatient, blunt, candid, impolitic manager. Value Based Management quoted Jack as a thought leader and said “Jack Welch’s success as CEO is in a large part due to his tremendous leadership skills”. According to Jack, the three principal qualities of a great leader were, being passionate about what you are doing, caring about employees who work for you and being able to energize employees to reach beyond even what they believe they can achieve.

Jack’s tremendous leadership skills, effective communication and dynamic concepts at the workplace have been widely accepted, across the globe, as an exemplary style of running an organization. His innovative, breakthrough leadership strategies as CEO have transformed GE into a highly productive, labor-efficient powerhouse. Under Jack’s leadership, managers had wide latitude in building their GE units in an entrepreneurial fashion. Determined to harness the collective power of GE employees, Jack Welch redefined also relationships between the boss and the subordinates