Jack Welch, one of the great CEOs of the 20th century, died Sunday at the age of 84. His legacy has been debated since the day he stepped down from the top job at GE in September 2001, and it will continue to be debated for years to come. But the very fact that it is still debated is proof he was a once-in-a-generation, if not once-in-a-century, business leader.
Fortune rightly dubbed Welch “Manager of the Century” in 1999, it also was directionally right in 2006, when Betsy Morris wrote that Welch’s rules were being displaced by new ones. Subsequent years have only made those changes clearer.
Welch “went nuts” over Six Sigma, as a tool to reduce cost in his businesses. But Six Sigma is about fixing existing processes. In today’s world of rapid technology change, the best leaders are focusing on how to completely rethink their processes and disrupt their businesses. It’s a very different skill set.
– Welch built a famed management training school, using the company’s facility in Crotonville to hone a generation of corporate leaders. But the top 21st century leaders believe their managers need to look outward to find direction for the future, not focus inward.