I greatly admire Krames’s previous books, notably The Welch Way: 24 Lessons From The World's Greatest CEO and What the Best CEOs Know: 7 Exceptional Leaders and Their Lessons for Transforming Any Business. He is an exceptionally clear and insightful thinker. In this volume, Krames focuses on the “4E Leadership Model,” an abbreviation of “The GE Authentic Leadership Model” which Welch introduced to GE almost ten years ago. Previously, Welch had stressed Head, Heart, and Guts. Eventually, he recognized the need for a more fully developed concept which could guide and inform the development of leaders within the GE organization. It should also be noted that he hired Noel Tichy to head up a management training center for GE to which Welch then committed about 20% of his time.
Welch believed that there are essentially four different types of leaders: Type A’s live the values and make the numbers, Type B’s live the values but do not always make the numbers, and Type C’s do not live the values but may make the numbers. To Welch, the A’s were GE’s “best and brightest,” the B’s were the ones who received the most intensive training, and (with very few exceptions) C’s were strongly advised to seek new career opportunities elsewhere. Welch discusses all this in his own recently published book, Winning. Here are some brief excerpts:
“The first E is positive energy. For example, they start the day with enthusiasm and usually end it that way too, rarely seeming to tire in the middle. They don’t complain about working hard; they love to work. They love to play. People with positive energy just enjoy life.
“The second E is the ability to energize others. Positive energy is the ability to get other people revved up. People who energize can inspire their team to take on the impossible -- and enjoy the hell out of doing it. In fact, people would arm wrestle for the chance to work with them.
“The third E is edge, the courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions. [Those with edge] know when to stop assessing and make a tough call, even without total information.
“The fourth E is execute -- the ability to get the job done.... It turns out you can have positive energy, energize everyone around you, make hard calls, and still not get over the finish line. Being able to execute is a special and distinct skill. It means a person knows how to put decisions into action and push them forward to completion, through resistance, chaos, or unexpected obstacles. People who can execute know that winning is about results.
“Passion! By that I mean a heartfelt, deep, and authentic excitement about work. People with passion care -- really care in their bones -- about colleagues, employees, and friends winning. They love to learn and grow, and they get a huge kick when people around them do the same. The funny thing about people with passion, though, is they usually aren’t excited just about work. They tend to be passionate about everything!...they just have juice for life in their veins.”
Krames does a brilliant job of organizing and presenting material in such a way that his reader can more easily understand it and, of greater importance, then put it to effective use. Krames agrees that “winning is about results” and does all he can to help his reader understand both the WHY and the HOW of “The Four E’s of Leadership.” He offers a self-audit in the Introduction (pages 18 and 19) followed by the first of several “4E Leader to Do” lists with which Krames concludes each of the chapters in Part I.
In Part II, he shifts his attention to “Leadership Lessons” to be learned from five of GE’s “4E All-Stars”: Jeff Immelt, James McNerney, Larry Bossidy, Robert Nardelli, and Vivek Paul. He devotes a separate chapter to each, again concluding all of the five chapters with an appropriate “4E Leader to Do” list. Yes, almost all of the material which Krames discusses can be found in other sources, including Welch’s book and others written by Krames as well as Robert Slater’s Jack Welch & The G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO. What makes this book so valuable is the fact that, as indicated earlier, Krames presents the material within a framework which helps the reader not only to understand the core leadership concepts but also to understand HOW to apply them effectively within her or his own organization.
One final point: Welch and Krames would be among the first to point out that there is no one “formula” which guarantees business success. However, the one which has proven so successful at GE affirms values and suggests core concepts, strategies, and tactics which -- if properly understood and then effectively applied -- can substantially assist the achievement of such success.
on 3 October 2005
Jeffrey A. Krames' book adds another paragraph or two to the Jack Welch entry in the annals of business history. "Neutron Jack" kept people from getting too comfortable, once explaining that it wasn't 100,000 General Electric (GE) employees he eliminated, it was 100,000 GE positions. His radioactive personality aside, Welch had remarkable success grooming top corporate leaders. The equity value of companies run by Welch's protégés - including GE, 3M, Home Depot and Honeywell - may well exceed some national budgets, so it is interesting to learn what qualities Welch encouraged as a mentor. Welch's "4E's" of leadership help explain how he generated so much value over the years for his grateful shareholders. Krames extracts leadership ideas from Welch's track record and makes them quick and handy. Although the book is more useful than original, we find that the articulation of the 4E's, and the profiles of Welch's protégés make it a solid addition to any business library.