Jun 24, 2014

Do You Leave Leadership to Chance? 5 Values that Show GE Doesn’t

Photo courtesy of Jared Kofsky

As a global company with over 130 years experience, GE knows a few things about leadership and the impact it has on its business. That’s why GE invests in understanding the leadership skills, capabilities, and values needed to drive success at any given time. GE says it periodically redefines leadership within the company by identifying the specific leadership qualities that align with their corporate culture, values, and strategy. And, because of this process, GE has a global reputation as one of the best companies in the world at developing leaders. You might even remember one of those leaders, Jack Welch.


One of the things that impressed me most about a recent document titled “The evolution of leadership: How GE links leadership to strategy” is this statement:

“Through this work we discovered that in today’s GE, and for today’s global, transparent economic environment, our values and leadership capabilities are indistinguishable. They are one and the same. And they are embodied by what we identified as our Growth Values.”

Those “Growth Values” are:

External Focus: Is in tune with customers and environment, connects with stakeholders, and is educated on global issues

Clear Thinker: Embraces and adapts to uncertainty, connects strategy to purpose and inspires, uses knowledge and instinct decisively, and hits commitments

Imagination & Courage: Generates innovative ideas, takes risks and learns from success and failure, and challenges bureaucracy

Inclusiveness: Welcomes ideas, listens and is humble, collaborates with respect to individuals and cultures, and drives engagement

Expertise: Has domain expertise, continuously develops self and others, and leverages technology

The thing that struck me about these “Growth Values” is their overriding intangible nature. You’ll notice words and phrases, like, “in tune with”, “embraces uncertainty”, “connects”, “inspires”, “instinct”, and “humble” are used. Items that are difficult to measure. Of course, there are descriptive words used that are quantifiable, like, “success”, “failure”, and “commitments”. What this says is that GE fully recognizes that it takes success in the realm of the intangible qualities to create success in the tangible, quantifiable arena.

As I have discussed many times before, there is a significant difference between a “Manager” and a “Leader”. As business moves forward and changes to adapt to becoming ever more global, GE recognizes the need for those in leadership positions to change, too. Gone, or soon will be, are the companies whose leaders reign like monarchs over their fiefdom. The social changes won’t allow them to survive. Their competitors, who have already changed to embrace creativeness, innovation, flexibility, customer and employee engagement, diversity, inclusion, humility, collaboration, respect, etc., will drive them into oblivion.

Now, as you fully consider the leadership in your organization, have you left it to chance? Or, are you investing in the future of it by understanding the alignment of your values and leadership to drive success now, and in the future?

If you would like to bring clarity and direction to your leadership team, contact me today!

Creating life in forward motion,
Dr. Edward Lewellen