Just one day after he stepped down from GE's top job, I got the chance to talk with Jeff Immelt and hear what he’s learned about leading during times of change. Here are three ideas that I took away.
Find your true north
On a personal level, the accelerating pace of change can be noisy. With each new change, there are more things competing for our attention. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and hard to filter out the noise.
To succeed, great leaders have to identify their true north and actively commit to removing all other distractions. This isn’t hard to understand in the abstract. What’s hard is finding the grit and confidence to stick to your choices and believe in the value of getting simpler over time, rather than more complex. You can spend all your time taking in as much input and information as possible, but at the end of the day you have to just go forward and act. As Jeff observed, the best leadership requires thinking about where the world is heading, identifying a couple of spots to go long, and then sticking to your guns.
Leadership comes from within
Jeff shared a great and humbling detail about what leadership feels like. He goes to bed every night feeling like a failure but wakes up every morning feeling on top of the world. Leadership, for him, is what happens in the space between those two extremes. And it comes from taking a constant and sometimes intense journey into yourself. Each day, you’ve got to stop and learn new ways to solicit and accept feedback and keep people motivated. To lead others through change, you first have to be willing to change yourself. And to help others get better, you have to be committed to your own continual self-renewal.
The changes that Jeff has faced have been of vital importance to GE. To survive over the last sixteen years, we've had to pivot many times. For Jeff, the key to that was accepting that any leader, especially in this era, isn’t going to make it through their tenure without paradigm-shifting change knocking at their door at least once. Instead of fearing it or fighting it, Jeff said he has stayed motivated by staying curious. When you’re curious, you’re open to growth. And when you’re wondering how the story unfolds, you can closely observe what change means for your organization in a constructive way.
What’s he most proud of after sixteen years? Leaving behind a company that is ready for the future, but still in touch with what has made it great since the beginning.
Originally published on Linkedin Pulse
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