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Management article
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Reference no. R0202H
Authors: Warren G Bennis
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2002

Abstract

If you want to understand how much business has changed in the past 50 years, set Alfred P. Sloan''s 1963 classic, My Years with General Motors, beside Jack Welch''s current bestseller, Jack: Straight from the Gut. Proper, reserved, more Brahmin than baron, Mr. Sloan (never "Al") managed to conceal one of the most creative minds of the first half of the twentieth century beneath a quiet belief in painstaking consensus building. Brash and audacious, a guy''s guy, everywhere in the press, Jack (never "Mr. Welch") is the embodiment of the CEO as icon--the epitome of individual star power. But for all their differences, the two are both, essentially, organization men. Sloan invented the concept of the modern corporation; Welch made it work. The question when it comes to Welch is, "How did he do it?" Was it through his oft-publicized strategy of selecting, trusting, and funding the right people and then setting them afloat in a sea of ideas? Or was it through the force of his personality-- his preternatural passion, his total dedication to the organization to the exclusion of any private pursuits? In the answer lie the seeds of Welch''s legacy. The next generation of CEOs will be quick to emulate the strategy, but not the monomaniacal passion. Nor should they. Tomorrow''s leaders, operating in more uncertain times, should seek breadth in their perspectives, openness in their thinking, and roundness in their lives.

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Abstract

If you want to understand how much business has changed in the past 50 years, set Alfred P. Sloan''s 1963 classic, My Years with General Motors, beside Jack Welch''s current bestseller, Jack: Straight from the Gut. Proper, reserved, more Brahmin than baron, Mr. Sloan (never "Al") managed to conceal one of the most creative minds of the first half of the twentieth century beneath a quiet belief in painstaking consensus building. Brash and audacious, a guy''s guy, everywhere in the press, Jack (never "Mr. Welch") is the embodiment of the CEO as icon--the epitome of individual star power. But for all their differences, the two are both, essentially, organization men. Sloan invented the concept of the modern corporation; Welch made it work. The question when it comes to Welch is, "How did he do it?" Was it through his oft-publicized strategy of selecting, trusting, and funding the right people and then setting them afloat in a sea of ideas? Or was it through the force of his personality-- his preternatural passion, his total dedication to the organization to the exclusion of any private pursuits? In the answer lie the seeds of Welch''s legacy. The next generation of CEOs will be quick to emulate the strategy, but not the monomaniacal passion. Nor should they. Tomorrow''s leaders, operating in more uncertain times, should seek breadth in their perspectives, openness in their thinking, and roundness in their lives.

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