CEO Legends and The Realities Working Under Them

There has been a lot of talk about leadership styles in 2016, especially after Donald Trump won the election for President of the United States. Most people think his leadership is somewhere between the Art of the Deal (younger Trump) and how he says; You’re Fired! On “The Apprentice” number one reality TV show – and no matter what you think, true leaders, strong leaders can be difficult to work for – as they expect a lot out of their team. Perhaps since they lead by example, they expect the same effort from their generals and the rank and file as well.

How about other great leaders like General Patton, Ronald Reagan or GE CEO Jack Welch? Interestingly enough, I had an interesting conversation about Jack Welch not long ago from an executive who had worked under him. My acquaintance stated:

“I have read Jack’s books and I consider him a great leader and somewhat of a sage. Though as an end-user of his policies, it wasn’t always a good time. He was considerably better than Immelt however. GE left me with the impression that it was always about the bottom line and absolutely nothing else, which I firmly understand but did not enjoy working under.”

After listening to his comments I told him; Yes, I hear you and I’ve talked with other former GE employees who had said the same, mostly in the medical divisions, that they ran them like slaves, then cut them from the payroll as needed without remorse. Total demands of their being at all times, stressful, and tough. Also I’ve talked to Xerox people who said it was the same there too, where if they didn’t perform, they were basically gone, if they didn’t meet their numbers, they’d get someone who did, see ya! Little if any loyalty, only to the bottom line – and that’s the way it was.

IBM sales people had told me the same thing too. Not all divisions were like that in those companies but many were, during Jack Welsh’s reign they were of course. I hear you. I see what you saw and felt. I get it. I am not an idol worshipper – I know there is a reality check.

Everyone said Steve Jobs was a hard ass too, but he got all the glory and went out on top, they even made a US Stamp for him. And I suppose he deserves it, he changed the way America lives and works, communicates and has changed our culture forever. GE, IBM and other great companies under their leadership have as well. Donald Trump is now the leader of the free world, with a management style all his own – he will change the world – time will tell and history will judge.

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