We're Slow Learners
One would think we’d get over our being enamored with the idea of a wunderkind superstar leader who has been anointed by some magical power to defy the laws that limit the rest of us mere mortals. Take a look at the headlines these days. Lots of supporting evidence all around.
I’m enjoying Cohan’s book. It’s the story of General Electric.
You’ll get a flavor of Jack Welch’s post GE years as well as the author interviewed the aging exec at a tony Nantucket golf club.
I read Welch’s own book some years ago. In it he went into considerable detail about how he selected Jeff Immelt to replace him at the GE helm. In that book Welch cast himself as the smart, thoughtful CEO who vetted the candidates for the job carefully and ultimately decided on Immelt. That wasn’t the end of the story it turns out. GE went on to implode and Welch ended up bitterly angry about what he once thought had been his brilliant succession selection.
I come away with the impression that some of GE’s emerging vulnerabilities could have been effectively addressed. But that would have required a corporate culture that valued taking a cold hard look at the facts on the ground and a freedom for employees to candidly talk about them. As we’ve learned, companies that have that kind of authenticity tend to be the exception.
Years ago there was a metaphor about how the idea of the superstar one guy (frequently male) CEO leading an organization was outmoded. A more apt image was said to be that of a flock of geese with traveling birds working cooperatively and trading positions while migrating to produce migratory success.
Yet, it seems we keep falling for the older schtick. It’s not for a lack of countervailing examples.