Jeff Immelt was a fresh-faced kid in his 20s, just a month into his new job at GE, when he was called upon to make a marketing presentation to Jack Welch, GE’s notoriously hard-nosed boss.
Welch was immediately impressed, and he put Immelt on GE’s management fast track. Whatever you think of Immelt’s ultimate stewardship of GE, the story is striking: Welch understood the importance of nurturing talent, and he groomed Immelt for nearly two decades before promoting him to the CEO position.
Executives in companies large and small bemoan their shallow talent pools. Leadership experts say building a pool of skilled executives requires hard work and intentional effort, such as Welch’s mentorship of Immelt. Welch’s relationship with Immelt is detailed in Jeff Immelt and the New GE Way by David Magee.
Develop Leadership Throughout Your Company
How can you recreate Welch’s eye for talent in your own organization? In Growing Leaders, leadership experts Richard Koonce, Gerry Miles and Steve Yearout draw up a roadmap for identifying and cultivating talent.
“Senior leaders today must increasingly concern themselves with nurturing a strong community of leaders at all levels in their organizations – not simply in the executive suite,” they write.
The authors lay out an eight-point plan to grooming leaders:
1. Define leadership: Decide what skills and competencies your organization needs.
2. Pick an educational approach: Whether it’s personal growth, skill building or something else, choose a strategy that fits your company’s needs.
3. Choose training programs that support your company’s leadership coaching and development (LCD) program.
4. Encourage your leaders to develop other leaders. As Welch illustrated, successful CEOs make it their mission to encourage others to lead.
5. Encourage and promote mentoring. This is a crucial step in developing leaders.
6. Assign leaders to the jobs that need to be done. But remember this rule of thumb: Every leader isn’t right for every job.
7. Grow the leaders of tomorrow: Promising people won’t build their skills if you don’t let them, so allow the flexibility to take risks and even fail. Budding leaders need diverse management experience.
8. Set metrics: Establish guidelines for evaluating leaders.
For more advice on grooming leaders, visit getAbstract’s library.