When GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt teaches up-and-coming leaders at the company’s famed management-development center, he runs through a checklist of what he calls “Things Leaders Do.” In an interview with Fast Company, Immelt reveals his own leadership checklist.
1. Personal Responsibility.
“Enron and 9/11 marked the end of an era of individual freedom and the beginning of personal responsibility. You lead today by building teams and placing others first. It’s not about you.”
2. Simplify Constantly.
“I always use Jack [Welch] as my example here. Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three things the organization is working on. If you can’t, then you’re not leading well.”
3. Understand Breadth, Depth, and Context.
“The most important thing I’ve learned since becoming CEO is context. It’s how your company fits in with the world and how you respond to it.”
4. The importance of alignment and time management.
“There is no real magic to being a good leader. But at the end of every week, you have to spend your time around the things that are really important: setting priorities, measuring outcomes, and rewarding them.”
5. Leaders learn constantly and also have to learn how to teach.
“A leader’s primary role is to teach. People who work with you don’t have to agree with you, but they have to feel you’re willing to share what you’ve learned.”
6. Stay true to your own style.
“Leadership is an intense journey into yourself. You can use your own style to get anything done. It’s about being self-aware. Every morning, I look in the mirror and say, ‘I could have done three things better yesterday.’ “
7. Manage by setting boundaries with freedom in the middle.
“The boundaries are commitment, passion, trust, and teamwork. Within those guidelines, there’s plenty of freedom. But no one can cross those four boundaries.”
8. Stay disciplined and detailed.
“Good leaders are never afraid to intervene personally on things that are important. Michael Dell can tell you how many computers were shipped from Singapore yesterday.”
9. Leave a few things unsaid.
“I may know an answer, but I’ll often let the team find its own way. Sometimes, being an active listener is much more effective than ending a meeting with me enumerating 17 actions.”
10. Like people.
“Today, it’s employment at will. Nobody’s here who doesn’t want to be here. So it’s critical to understand people, to always be fair, and to want the best in them. And when it doesn’t work, they need to know it’s not personal.”