What Made Jack Welch
JACK WELCH: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders
Book by Stephen H. Baum with Dave Conti
Stephen Baum’s What Made jack welch JACK WELCH: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders is a business book masterpiece. We regularly sample hundreds of business success books published each year. Baum’s stands out for leaving out the usual, after-the-fact braggadocio to instead load up on insight, introspection and reflection crafted in actually useful advice for the aspiring leader.
While we tired of the oft-repeated “swimming over your head,” We couldn’t offer a more appropriate phrase to viscerally describe the sensation that comes with trying new experiences while preparing to assume leadership. We also must commend Baum for the depth of his sourcing, from his own interviews and texts of successful leaders to confidential conversations from his professional network.
Baum’s text discusses a wide range of defining moments he calls “archetypal shaping experiences,” and helps identify the “empty suits” in leadership positions. The author then goes into serious depth about skills and attributes critical to leadership, including action orientation, ethics, risk management, confidence development and decisiveness.
He concludes with two powerful capstone chapters. One on engaging and inspiring team members by using “signal acts”and authenticity is particularly thought provoking. Part of the discussion uses the analogy of parenting to illustrate workplace weaknesses. One nit we would pick with Baum is his light warning to not treat workers as small children in the family. True, in our varied careers we have seen many executives bring their parenting skills into the workplace and then complain about how immaturely their workers act, how they need too much direction and guidance — all the while treating their workers like 5-year-olds. We want loyal family members, but we also want them to grow into mature workers and eventually leave the nest to achieve their own success.
Baum’s concluding chapter advises everyone to find a career guide or mentor, who he calls “guardian angels.” These angels ask tough, but gently delivered, questions and similar firm-but-kind advice that ultimately helps shape your own character. The author offers some heartfelt examples of how mentors helped launch the careers of some of his interview subjects including Jim Broadhead, who went from lawyer to successful CEO of Florida Power and Light; and Chuck O’Dell, who became chief executive of Marriott Management Services, and later Sodexho. And last, but certainly not least, both Baum and those interviewed single out the “angels” at the bottom of the organization who roll up their sleeves, get the job done and never hide or obscure the truth.
Reading this final chapter, it became obvious to us that Baum has elegantly dovetailed his own experiences as a coach and executive advisor with the business world’s great achievers to create a work that’s become like a proxy mentor to us. The same can hold true for business leaders everywhere, and all for the price of a publication. What a gift!