01 Mar 2010
What Happened to Leadership?Topics:
For a speech on “Reviving American Leadership,” General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (MBA ’82) chose a discerning audience: the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. Citing the military as a notable exception, Immelt deplored the breakdown of leadership in America in recent years: “Tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed — both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes, with the least accountability. In too many situations, leaders divided us instead of bringing us together” (Reuters, December 9, 2009).
Immelt went on to say that leaders “share a common responsibility to narrow the gap between the weak and the strong. I have taken on the challenge to increase manufacturing jobs in the United States. These are the jobs that have created the midwestern middle class for generations. Manufacturing jobs paid for college educations, including mine.” He called on the private sector to work with government — “a catalyst for leadership and change” — to set goals for productivity, job creation, and exports. Immelt listed several requirements of leaders: They need to be “systems thinkers” as well as eclectic and attentive listeners. And, he said, they must like and respect people and be able to motivate, build competence, move quickly, and execute.
Class of MBA 1982, Section A
Class of MBA 1982, Section I