Inside Influence


Jeff Immelt - The Hotseat: Leading GE through controversy and crisis

Season 1, Ep. 147

What does it take to face your critics?

I mean squarely, unflinchingly – with full self-responsibility. However, and this part is all important, still willing to defend yourself when it counts?

Responsibility is an interesting word. I always understood it to mean ‘the ability to respond’. Taking full ownership of the fact that, while you may not always be able to control WHAT happens – you are always able to control what you do next.

As a place to begin, I think it’s a good one.

However, what we don’t often talk about is moments where – the stakes are sky high, the information is ever changing – and there are only bad options on the table.

That, as my next guest would say, is leadership in the hot seat.

Now imagine you’re new to the reins of one of the world’s most respected brands, have woken up to a Global tragedy that implodes a huge proportion of your revenue, an out of control 24 hour news cycle, all eyes on you – and the legacy of the company now rests in your hands.

Today’s Guest 

 Jeff was the 9th Chairman of GE and served as CEO for 16 years. He has been named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by Barron’s. During his tenure as CEO, GE was named “America’s Most Admired Company” by Fortune magazine and one of “The World’s Most Respected Companies” in polls by Barron’s and the Financial Times. He has received fifteen honorary degrees and numerous awards for business leadership and chaired the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness under the Obama administration. 

He is now also the author of ‘HOT SEAT’, a memoir on leadership in times of crisis. 

A book that grabbed my attention with one of it’s opening lines… “My legacy as the CEO of GE was at best ‘controversial”.

Now, if you take any time to read the press coverage of Jeff’s tenure as CEO of GE, having taken over the reins from the legendary Jack Welch in 2001. Along with accolades you might also read words like ‘tumultuous’, ‘misguided’ or at worst ‘a disaster’.

Yet, what you might not read, is that during those 16 years, GE generated more earnings and cash flow than the previous 110 years combined.

You’ll Learn
  • The three voices that every leader must master in order to effectively drive change.
  • Why the role of any leader during – and after – a crisis is to learn how to ‘absorb the fear’ of their teams. 
  • Why it’s so much easier to talk about our successes than our failures, especially if there was no great hero’s triumph at the end. 

References and links mentioned

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