Jack Welch: These 5 Traits Define a Powerful Leader
Feel like you’re born to be a manager? You can make sure you cover all the bases and tick off all of the standard “management material” items to see if you belong in, or near, the C-suite. There are a lot of factors that go into the making of a great manager or leader, but it takes more than just the ability to captivate and motivate, through storytelling or otherwise, to convince others of your leadership abilities.
One of the business world’s most formidable and respected business leaders, Jack Welch, is still doing what he can to teach budding managers and executives what they need to know. Welch, who served as Chairman of General Electric for two decades, famously grew the company’s value by 4,000% — and due to his successes, now commands eyes and ears any time he doles out advice.
Most recently, he laid out five specific traits that he feels make a great leader. In a blog post on LinkedIn (along with his wife, Suzy) Welch outlines these five traits and explains how and why effective leaders use them, and when one individual possesses all of them, great things can happen.
Jack Welch on leadership
“For some people, the question of whether leaders are born or made is truly intellectual – fodder for a good classroom or dinner party debate,” Welch writes. “It’s comprised of five essential traits … These traits, by the way, do not include integrity, which is a requirement in any leadership position, or intelligence, which is likewise a ticket to the game in today’s complex global marketplace. Nor do they include emotional maturity, another necessity. These three characteristics are baseline – they’re givens.”
But these may not be the same old traits you’ve come to expect. If you really want to become an effective manager or leader, these are the traits Jack Welch and his wife suggest you bring to the table.
1. Positive energy
The first trait the Welch brings up is that of positive energy. “The capacity to go-go-go with healthy vigor and an upbeat attitude through good times and bad,” as Welch describes it. Positive energy is something that is seemingly infectious and often overlooked as a quality of a great leader. Just imagine a leader who expels negative energy, and how effective those people tend to be; we’ve all had a toxic or awful boss who fit that bill, and simply flipping to a more positive state of mind and management style can make a huge difference.
2. Ability to energize others
As we mentioned, positive energy can be infectious. If a leader or manager brings a certain amount of positive energy to the workplace, it’s only natural that the employees are going to pick up on it, and become more energized. This is great for workplace cohesion and productivity, and as we’ve covered before, strong relationships between co-workers can lead to big things.
A leader isn’t a leader unless they can get through the ugly bits, along with the good parts of the job. “The third trait is edge – the ability to make tough calls, to say yes or no, not maybe,” Welch writes of this trait. The point is, being in a position of power isn’t always fun, and sometimes it means you’ll be put into positions that are very tough to navigate. You’ll need to fire people. Hire people. And make some very tough calls that can make or break an entire organization.
If Welch knew how to do one thing, it was how to execute. And if you’re hoping to one day make it to the top of your business or organization, you’ll need to prove you can get things done. That’ll take a certain level of edginess, and it’ll take energy. But at the end of the day, all that matters is that you can, as Welch puts it, “very simply, get things done.”
If you’re not passionate about what you do, it’s going to be very tough to become successful at it. It’s possible, sure. But if you care about, and love what you do? You’re naturally going to do a better job, and your love for the work will imprint on those around you.
As Welch says, “Leaders have passion. They care deeply. They sweat; they believe.”