With friends like Jack Welch, who needs enemies?

Jack Welch never ceases to amaze. He’s arguably the greatest chief executive in American businessWelch
history. He’s earned every conceivable accolade. And he’s worshipped by businesspeople near and far.

So, why does he feel the need to publicly bash his hand-picked successor, Jeff Immelt?

Speaking to reporters after Immelt accepted full blame for GE’s mediocre first quarter, Welch said he would ‘…get a gun out and shoot’ Immelt if he missed his financial goals again.

Ouch. What’s that all about? Talk about second guessing someone. Talk about slamming your own golden boy.

Welch obviously comes from the Vince Lombardi ‘tough love school of management.’ And, even though he’s no longer running the show at GE, he’s still trying his best to motivate Immelt by fear.

Management by fear is totally bogus. I never liked reporting to a menacing CEO and found myself being less strategic, less creative and less productive as a result.

Retired CEOs should stay retired. Or, they should write columns for BusinessWeek. Or they should charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for one hour speeches. But, they should not publicly bash their hand-picked successors.  It’s bad form and reflects poorly on the image and reputation of all concerned.

2 thoughts on “With friends like Jack Welch, who needs enemies?

  1. Great points, Bill. I’m anxious to read your book for two reasons: 1) I’m fascinated by all things GE and 2) I reported to a CEO at a division of J. Walter Thompson who didn’t know when to leave or when to allow his successor to lead. Welch needs to stay away. Period.

  2. I totally agree with your comments about Welch and retired CEO’s. I thought you might like to see one of my latest blogs on this topic.
    GEWatcher 12- “Welch violated one of the GE key success factors- Leave and get out of the way”
    It has been an amazing GE week…for people like me who are alumni and investors.
    In my book, The Secret to GE’s Success, I emphasize that among GE success factors, has been their ability to make their numbers and never over promise…
    But on Friday, April 18, 2008… Jeff Immelt had to apologize because GE was unable to meet the income targets that he had just two weeks before said were “in the bag”. Even worse he missed badly and had to blame more than one business unit for the miss. This caused a major sell off of the ENTIRE DOW since the most reliable company missed and everyone thought that things were bad and getting worse.
    To make matters worse Jack Welch, the GE legend, went on CNBC (a GE owned cable network) and its competitor FOX NEWS… to say that Immelt’s miss was irresponsible. This unprecedented action made things worse… and it was compounded when Jack..ate humble pie.. and said he was miss interpreted.
    One of GE’s great strengths in the past was that its CEO’s retired and then disappeared. Unfortunately Jack has not disappeared and continues to promote himself. He has columns in Business Week, is a frequent guest on news programs, and even leads expensive, executive session.
    This is what I wrote in my book:
    “Leave and Get Out of the Way. This is another critical piece of GE’s leadership success. GE leaders have been required to leave when they retired and not permitted to hang around either as members of the board of directors or as advisers. This practice has enabled the new leader to take command without being second-guessed by his predecessor.”
    It is clear, that even if Jack Welch meant well, he appears to unable to leave GE behind and not continue to play the role of CEO. Unfortunately, he made the situation worse and has caused many to question Immelt’s game plan and abilities. This is not positive.
    I will continue to comment on the GE strategy and its ability to create and meet realistic expectations.
    Welch said that Immelt can’t surprise everyone again… I agree and Immelt and his team must be able to make the numbers with no excuses.
    Bill Rothschild, author of The Secret to GE’s Success and the most unique strategic thinking software and tutor available, StrategyLeader(tm). This software is available for a 10 day trial on http://www.strategyleader.com.