Jack Welch: Least Helpful Predecessor

Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of GE. Jeff Immelt, current CEO of GE. Welch groomed Immelt.

So this is not what Immelt probably expected from his former mentor as GE suffers a bit on Wall Street:

On April 16th, in an apparent bid to wrest the title of "least helpful predecessor" from Alan Greenspan, the suddenly outspoken former Federal Reserve chairman, Mr Welch informed viewers of…CNBC, that "Jeff has a credibility issue. He’s getting his ass kicked," before promising to "get a gun out and shoot him if he doesn’t make what he promised now."

It’d be one thing if Immelt was thought to have a motivation issue or didn’t know that he was in some deep shit. That’s not the case here. This is just dumb on the part of Welch.

On the topic of Welch, I’ve long been befuddled by how much businesspeople idolize the guy. I mean, OK, so he had an incredible run at GE. He’s been one of America’s most successful CEOs. That doesn’t mean every business owner can learn from him.

Circumstances matter. Are the tips from a CEO of a $300+ billion dollar company going to be useful to someone running a 10 person company, or even a 1,000 person company? I doubt it.

There are many successful CEOs and it’d be smarter, it seems to me, to find someone who is doing a little bit better than you (ie, 3-5 years ahead in terms of progress), and study that person.

Instead, we flock to read Welch and Trump and Gerstner, thinking that their experiences can help us understand our own. Worse yet, people fork over thousands of dollars just to hear Donald Trump speak in-person at a Learning Annex conference or whatever. I couldn’t think of a worse way to invest professional development money.

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