More on Jack Welch

Hiring people is funny. It's one of the most important things managers do, but we have no idea how or why to do it right. Electing a politician is nothing but a hiring process, alas, we do it in public and we almost always do it wrong!

Like John, I also read Jack's piece, and was struck by the "rear view mirror" analysis (using a few notable facts and then piecing together a theory) that is used by most pundits.

The problems? First, the analysis seemed awfully superficial. Too many voters appear to pick a candidate by "who they like" rather than based on what they'll do. This felt a lot like that. I mean, does it make any sense at all that 20% of a state's voters would change their mind about a candidate in just one day--because he yelled at a rally? That's a hell of a job interview.

Second, where's the regression analysis? Where's the evidence that leaders who fit Jack's convenient definition actually do a good job in politics? Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchhill, Margaret Thatcher, Harry Truman and Martin Luther King show up on just about everyone's list of great leaders, but it's awfully hard to imagine what simple (and useful) indicators they have in common.

I'm not one to talk, of course, because I make superficial statements like Jack's all the time. In my case, I do them to help people have the guts to do hard things. Not sure what Jack's goal was.

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3 Comments

  • Horst Bender

    Jack Welch's "The 4 E's" is not a good number, at least in the most important Asian economies Japan and China.
    The handful 5 traits is better.
    Add 3 more important traits for a leader:
    Empathy,Enthousiasm and Eloquence
    (storytelling.
    This brings it to 8 and makes it a lucky number
    in Asian cultures, but most important it covers aspects of
    Emotional Intelligence (hi Daniel Goleman).
    Are these "8 E's" the recipe for a
    complete 21st century leader?

    Horst Bender
    Managing Director
    HWB Communications
    Sydney, Australia

  • seth Godin

    Barry's point gives me a chance to clarify. When I said "useful", I meant, "what is it in Jack's use of the 4 Es that separates people who have them but end up doing a lousy job from those that have them and do a great job? There were plenty of people with emotional intelligence and charisma who are lousy Presidents...

    In other words, if being a fictional woman is the predictor for packaged goods brand success (Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, Mrs. Smith) it's not that useful, because plenty of fictional women (Miss Wilson) have never been heard from again.

  • Barry Klein

    Of course people select a politician based on who they like rather than on what they'll do. It really isn't much different from how we select the products we buy or the services we use, is it? Superficial? Maybe, but every single one of us is guilty of making buying decisions this way.

    We like to do business, or vote for people, that we connect with, especially at an emotional and hearfelt level. The 20% that changed their minds were already on the fence- the scream just pushed them over.

    The politicians and leaders that Seth mentioned all had the ability to "connect" with their constituents and I don't have any problem seeing that all of these people have the 4 E's(plus passion),that Welch mentioned, in common.

    What is impossible to measure is what is meant by "doing a good job". Every one of the leaders mentioned were very polarizing in their days. For every person that loved them, you could point to someone who hated them with equal passion. Sounds kind of like the same response George W. elicits, doesn't it?