Last summer I was lucky enough to hear Jack Welch present a keynote address in Boston. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from a true business legend and try to connect his perspectives to my own experiences. I was awed by his immense presence, his command of the room and his apparent stature (he loomed fairly large for a relatively short person). And at the same time, I was interested  to hear him speak so simply and concisely. He was matter of fact and to the point. It was a financial services conference, but the topics ranged from learning about how his mom built his identity and confidence (he always thought he was 6’4”) to his role in leading GE to a $400B company. He spent some time on wealth, TARP, the health care system, winning in a global economy, and some pretty funny political commentary.

But what really engaged me was what he said about leadership.

He has 4Es of Leadership: Energy – Energizer – Edge – Execute.

  • Energy: The trigger to getting everything or anything started. You have to want to win, be driven, not lazy.
  • Energizer: The ability to truly motivate and get the most from your people. It includes leading by example, and going out on a limb, being more open to risk taking and accepting that mistakes will happen.
  • Edge: The importance of ‘looking hungry.’ It’s being competitive, confident and comfortable in difficult situations and able to make hard decisions.
  • Execute: Activity and productivity are not the same. Channel your energized organization into action and true business results.

Adding a note to his 4E’s, Jack spent some time talking about the importance of keeping things in perspective, what he called the “generosity gene.” Great leaders have passion and compassion; they care for others.

Reflecting on Jack’s 4Es, there are a few  leadership lessons I have picked up over time and now try to keep alive in my leadership style:

  • I was reminded recently to focus my energies on being more open to possibilities and to utilize my right brain more often.
  • I learned early on in my professional career that I have to acknowledge some degree of humility –I have the responsibility to teach, enable and foster excellence in others. Don’t underestimate my team’s potential; expect them to exceed expectations.
  • Be passionate without shutting down other equally if not more important voices and perspectives.

What are some of the leadership lessons that have most influenced you?