Jeffrey Immelt on Keys to Great Leadership
In an interview in the Fast Company Magazine, General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt reveals his checklist of leadership skills. Perhaps the most significant of these skills is the understanding perspective on one’s job.
“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.”
The Problem: A Narrow Outlook of our Work
As I elaborated in a previous blog article, we get busy doing and fail to devote time for deep thinking. We concentrate on the minutiae of our work. We forget that these tasks are a part of a larger canvas–an element of a large value-addition process. If you are a metallurgy scientist, your work may be a part of the large value-addition process of converting raw material into turbine blades for jet engines that power large aircrafts. If you are computer programmer working on a small software module, your work may be a small component of software that enables customers to trade stocks directly from their cell phones.
Call for Action: Understand the Big-Picture
The key to understanding the broader aspects of your work is to make a special effort to learn more than what is in front of your face. In addition to understanding the boss’s description of your task or a work-procedure, you need to ask why you need to do what you have been asked to do. Begin by asking the following questions.
- How does your organisation make money from what you do? How does your company make money to pay you?
- How do you fit into the value-addition chain? What are the steps involved? What is the flow of information, money and materials?
- Who is the end customer? Why does he/she need the product or service your organisation is building? What is the fundamental problem the customer is trying to solve? How does you work solve this problem?
- How will the customer use with the particular product or service your organisation is developing? What other features can your organisation add to your product or service to help the customer? What else can you do to help the customer?
Employees who understand the broader context of their jobs and embrace the big-picture perspective of the value-addition process are more inclined to grow quickly because, in addition to technical skills, their repertoire includes the wide-ranging commercial viewpoint of the fundamental problems at hand.