The anti-CEO

Ricardo Semler’s leadership style amazes me because it is radical and practical at the same time, as this excellent interview Semler demonstrates.

My favorite part of the piece is the one where he examines Jack Welch’s leadership style. Welch is revered as the world’s best leader in many circles, but I personally see many things wrong with the way he has run GE. So does Ricardo:

The model that Jack Welch presents, however, has problems, principally in its emphasis on charismatic leadership. This is true not only of Welch but also of Lou Gerstner, Michael Eisner, and Roy Vagelos of Merck. CEOs around the world are drawn like a magnet to the idea of having the influence that Welch had. But I don’t think it’s in the best interests of GE or any company to have a very strong charismatic figure, because the capacity to make succession happen is diminished. When succession time rolls around, the question is, Should the organization be attuned to the Neutron Jack way of doing things, or should it be attuned to what GE needs to be in the new world? That is the trouble with the Jack Welch paradigm.

My second objection has to do with a method of management that says, Here’s what I need you to do, here’s my vision-lock into it and you’ll be all right. Work hard, deliver, and you’ll survive, but if you don’t play along, you’re out of here. To my mind, that’s a format of terror.

That’s exactly what it is – it’s ruling by fear and it’s great to see that modern leader are abandoning that approach.

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