How to take people with you

Love him or loath him, Jack Welch’s leadership legacy still resonates. The former chairman and chief executive of General Electric was renowned as a hard taskmaster but one with a clear vision of how GE needed to reinvent itself to prosper in a fluid future. He placed a high premium on developing talent, acting as coach and mentor to many future business leaders and winning their loyalty in return. It wasn’t just window-dressing. Wrote one profiler at the time: “Welch’s profound grasp on General Electric stems from knowing the company and those who work for it like no other. First off, there are the thousands of ‘students’ he has encountered in his classes at the Croton-on-Hudson campus. Then there’s the way he spends his time: More than half is devoted to ‘people’ issues.” It’s a philosophy shared by David Novak, the CEO of Yum! Brands, whose sprawling global empire includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. Novak’s new book, Taking People With Youis based on a program of the same name he teaches about eight times a year to people at Yum!  Stanford Professor Robert Sutton, who writes extensively on work, management and leadership, says he was “stunned” by the book. “The key to effective leadership, and one of the hardest things for any leader to achieve is self-awareness, knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses and being in tune with what it feels like to work for you,” says Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule. “Unlike so many companies who turn this responsibility over to professional trainers or worse yet, outside vendors, Mr Novak has developed and taught the … workshop himself to 4,000 people, and is now ‘cascading’ it so his senior executives will teach it to others as well.” The Welch era may be over, but having committed, high-calibre employees remains the ultimate competitive advantage. As Welch put it: “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.”

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