I thought Welch’s take on leadership traits was pretty on target, but like Seth Godin, I felt there was still something missing: “The four E’s” (energy, energize, edge, and execute) just don’t quite capture the full picture…and his corollary of passion being the final element didn’t quite get it, either.
After all, by this definition, Hitler was a pretty damn good leader: he had energy for his ideas, was able to energize a whole lot of other people about them, had an edge about him, and was very successful at executing his plans for a long stretch of time. And, yes, he was passionate. But clearly, Hitler was horrible, evil, the worst kind of “successful” leader we could possibly imagine.
To take it down a notch and look at business for a moment, we could say that Enron’s or Tyco’s or Worldcom’s leaders were pretty high on the Welch scale, too. Did they have energy and were they able to energize others? Did they have edge? Could they execute (and with passion)? Probably yes. Were they good leaders? Just ask all their former employees, who are still reeling from the financial fall-out of losing their jobs and their retirement nest eggs.
So what’s missing from the “4E’s”?
I’d say another “E”: Ethics.
Add ethics to that mix of two-way energy, edge, and execution, and you have a recipe for a real leader.