April 28, 2005
Jack Welch Speaks at Anderson
Former CEO of General Electric provides tips for moving up in corporate world
LOS ANGELES – Students and alumni at the UCLA Anderson School of Management packed into Korn Convocation Hall to hear from one corporate executive whose management style is analyzed and taught in business schools nationwide.
Jack Welch, former CEO and chairman of General Electric for 20 years, came to Anderson on Monday to discuss leadership, management skills and the current state of corporate America. He retired from General Electric in 2001.
During his tenure as an executive, General Electric's market value rose from $13 billion to $500 billion, and the company went on to have the largest market capitalization – the number of shares outstanding in the stock market multiplied by the stock price of each share – in the U.S. stock market.
Anderson Dean Bruce Willison asked Welch questions about leadership and what skills are needed to be successful in the workforce. Then audience members were able to ask Welch questions.
Dean Willison asked Welch about what elements are required to be a good leader. Welch responded that when newly minted MBA recipients head into the workplace, their primary goal should be to produce individual results.
But once an employee is promoted to management, the focus must shift to working in a team.
"The moment you become a leader, it's about them," he said, referring to team members.
Welch said he believes that the transition from executing as an individual to managing a team can be difficult, but it is necessary to become a good leader.
He also discussed some qualities he looked for in potential leaders when putting together a solid management team at General Electric.
Passion and energy were some characteristics that he mentioned.
"People want a can-do personality," he said.
Welch elaborated that good leaders have vision and "give people a new perspective that they never had."
He also expanded on the importance of producing results and emphasized that to be successful in the workplace, an individual should display his or her "ability to over-deliver."
According to Welch, "over-delivering" will show management how valuable the individual is to the company.
"Then you have something to show your boss," he said.
Welch also commented on the state of corporate America and discussed the role of service that board members should be playing. He said board members should focus on helping their companies as a whole with a wider perspective of that company.
He called on executives to get involved with the companies they run and encouraged them to better understand the employees who work for them. Furthermore, he said board members should not waste time by trying to micromanage their employees.
"Boards are forgetting what their jobs are," he said. "The board has to touch and feel real people doing real things."
He also shed light on how to move up the corporate ladder.
"One of the main ways to get promoted is to go where the action is," Welch said.
For example, he said, if a company is investing in China and making it a part of its corporate strategy, traveling abroad and working there is paramount.
One audience member asked Welch about the goals he had when he graduated from college. Welch said when he was younger he did not have aspirations to become an executive. For him the goal was "to make enough money to eat."
Welch said one of the best ways to learn and experience mentorship is through reading various financial publications, such as the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine. He added that a one-on-one mentorship is not the only way to learn, and that taking the time to read such publications can provide young businesspeople with a lot of information.
Overall, Anderson students said they enjoyed Welch's visit.
"He's just a dynamic character," said Brian Below, a second-year MBA student. "His humor and personality go a long way," he said.
"I thought he was very personable," said second-year MBA student Wendy Tirsch.
Originally published in UCLA Daily Bruin