Jack Welch passed away on Sunday, March 1, 2020 at the age of 84. The former GE CEO, whom Fortune magazine once named “Manager of the Century” died of renal failure, as reported in the New York Times.
While his revolutionary career is something that management historians and business schools across the country still focus on today, we have had the pleasure of studying him in a slightly different manner. We covered his transformational leadership path in two distinct ways:
- From what others wrote about him
- From what Jack wrote about himself
Our coverage of Jack’s leadership ascent began in 1999 with our book summary of Jack Welch and the GE Way. Author Robert Slater had unprecedented access to Welch and other high-ranking GE insiders. When Jack took over as CEO of GE in 1981 he knew the company needed to change. He cut the workforce, delayered management, and reduced the number of business units. “Neutron Jack” rewarded quality and encouraged innovative thinking. For all his radical techniques, he turned GE from a $26 billion revenue company in 1980 to a $130 billion revenue company in 2000.
The next book we highlighted about Jack was his autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut. Published in 2001 shortly after his retirement as CEO of GE – it eventually went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. In this classic business memoir, Welch, part storyteller/part business coach, takes us on a ride from his hardscrabble childhood in Massachusetts to his eventual ascension to CEO at one of the most iconic companies in American history. Along the way he regales readers with his advice on what it takes to be a truly great leader. Our summary of Jack: Straight from the Gut is one of our most-read and most-downloaded summaries of all-time.
Soon after marrying his third wife Suzy in 2005, they co-authored Winning. While Jack: Straight from the Gut was more of a traditional CEO memoir detailing in-the-trenches stories of deals struck, boardroom encounters, and other career adventures, Winning delved into Welch’s hands-on management techniques. After his retirement from GE, Welch traveled the world for a few years, speaking to hundreds of thousands of business professionals. The content in Winning was inspired by the interactions Jack experienced with those audiences. It speaks to people at all levels of business – from line workers to senior executives – and offers up common-sense advice for anyone eager to experience career success.
Through the years, we’ve also reviewed many additional books that either featured Jack prominently or had significant portions of the book devoted to Jack’s leadership techniques and overall management style. Some of these titles include:
- What Made Jack Welch Jack Welch: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders
- Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE Into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company
- Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship with Those Above You
- The Secret to GE’s Success: A Former Insider Reveals the Management Strategies of the World’s Most Competitive Company
- The GE Workout: How to Implement GE’s Revolutionary Method for Busting Bureaucracy and Attacking Organizational Problems – Fast!
All of us here at Soundview would like to pass along our deepest condolences to Jack’s family and friends. He was a visionary and will truly be missed.