Mr. Welch, a native of Salem, Massachusetts, received his B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1957 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois.

He joined GE in 1960 and was elected Vice President in 1972 and Vice Chairman in 1979. In 1981, he became the eighth Chairman and CEO in the company's 121-year history. He retired in the fall of 2001.

Mr. Welch is a former chairman and a member of both The Business Council and the National Academy of Engineering and is a member of the Business Roundtable.

His commentary on a range of topics:

On leadership: leaders should realize that an organization cannot succeed through the efforts of one person. They should try to boost their employees' self-confidence and give them a chance to try and succeed. Once people succeed, they will gain confidence and come back for more. He noted that the leadership qualities that cannot be easily taught are passion and the ability to energize others.

On customers: he believes that one of the main reasons for his success at GE was due to his constant interaction with customers, many of whom he personally met during the spring and fall of each year.

On bio-technology: he suggestes that one of the hottest areas of the economy in the future will be in biotech and diagnostic imaging, and he regretted the fact that he as CEO of GE did not have the courage to purchase a biopharmaceutical company, fearing stock dilution.

On shareholders: during tough economic times, companies must take measures to differentiate themselves, and that Wall Street cares most about credibility and delivery. He observed that it is quite difficult for corporate leaders to "eat while you dream" - planning for the long-term while delivering results in the short term - but they must do so.

On employees: He urged his managers to deliver results for their employees - who hold a significant portion of GE's stock - rather than focusing on delivering results to investment managers. He added that jobs should be rewarding to both the soul and the wallet. GE's culture stresses the respect of human dignity and that every employee's ideas count.

On globalization: He supports globalization and believes that it is the only sure way to let the "have-nots have what the haves have." Speaking about GE's successes in Hungary, India and China, he said that companies should look at developing markets and their people as supply-chain partners and intellectual capital rather than simply a mass of potential customers.

On acquisitions: Responding to a question about the European Commission's (EC) rejection of the Honeywell-GE merger, He notes that the EC was only ten years old and that the organization has a steep learning curve ahead. He added that the King of Sweden and the President of France had backed other merger deals that were also rejected by the EC, and as an Irish man from Boston he thus found himself in good company. In negotiating an acquisition, it is always good to leave something on the table for the other side, especially if you are building a long-term relationship.

On opportunities: He advises to avoid opportunities that may seem lucrative in the short-run but were not really what they wanted to do in the long run. He advises people to be themselves and take jobs about which they were passionate, saying that foregone income in the short-run will be more than made up for in the longer term. He felt encouraged by the fact that young people are more eager to follow their own passions.

On responsibility: He assertes that people should not be embarrassed about winning since companies that prosper can give back to society. General Electric has helped some 20,000 employees become millionaires, and it has facilitated the involvement of more than 50,000 employees in community service.

On mentoring: Mr. Welch ascribed much of his personal success to his mother, who always gave him the confidence that he could succeed despite his early shortcomings.

Some quotes from his books (Jack: Straight from the Gut and Jack Welch on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Master CEO) and speeches):
  • Getting the right people in the right job is a lot more important that developing a strategy.
  • I'm over the top on lots if issues, but none comes as close to the passion I have for making people GE's core competency.
  • When people make mistakes, the last thing they need is discipline. It's time for encouragement and confidence building. The job at this point is to restore self-confidence. I think 'piling on" when someone is down is one of the worst things that any of us can do.
  • There is probably nothing worse in business that to work for a boss who doesn't want to win. This can happen anywhere, at any level - and probably occurs more often than we think.
  • Over the years, I called Reg (Reginald Jones, the previous chief executive) a lot. I never did a major thing without letting him know - even though he left the board the day I became chairman.
  • Making initiatives successful is all about focus and passionate commitment. The drumbeat must be relentless. Every leadership action must demonstrate total commitment to the initiative.
  • I've learned in a hundred ways that I rarely regretted acting but often regretted not acting fast enough.
  • When all is said and done, teaching is what I try to do for a living.

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