Renewing American Leadership

GE’s Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt

In a recent article in ReliablePlant.com Jeff Immelt talks about renewing American leadership.  What he has to say makes a lot of sense.  American business leaders need to wake up from their slumber.

Summary

  • Link to full speech
  • “We need a new strategy for this economy. We should clear away any arrogance, false assumptions, or a sense that things will be ‘ok’ just because we are America. Rather, we should dedicate ourselves again to be the most competitive country in the world… We need to invest more in innovation.
  • Nothing of consequence is accomplished without leadership.
  • Jeff told the audience that GE has been working hard to understand what attributes of leadership can make an impact given the challenges of the 21st century.
    • First, “we have to be better listeners,” he said. “21st century leaders listen. They use external inputs as a catalyst. They put their ego in check. They ask more questions than they answer. They welcome dissent and debate, and are constantly seeking more intelligence.”
    • Second, “leaders must become systems thinkers who are comfortable with ambiguity,” he said. “Success requires problem solving, and connecting the dots. This requires intellectual breadth and tactical depth. We must understand technology, globalization, politics, economics, Human Resources. We must understand how government, community, the environment, business, academics all connect. And we must apply this to solving problems.”
    • Third, “leaders must build competency and move with speed,” Jeff said. “GE is a big organization, like the Army. The problem with size is that it can be too slow. At GE, we must push decision-making down in the organization and we must delegate more.”
    • Last, leaders, he said, “must motivate with vision” — providing the “emotional connection that inspires action and commitment.” And they must re-earn the trust that was lost during the economic meltdown.
  • “The residue of the past was a more individualistic ‘win-lose’ game,” he said. “The 21st century is about building bigger and diverse teams; teams that have a culture of respect. This new spirit of American leadership — much of which is derived from this great institution — will be the foundation of renewal and change.”