After two of the specialty's legendary leaders, Harvey Neiman, MD, and James Thrall, MD, were awarded the RLI's first Luminary Leaders awards in a warm and celebratory ceremony on Thursday evening, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt delivered a keynote that contained some bold predictions as well as a short list of things every good leader needs.
First, a good leader needs a point of view. Acknowledging that he had never seen a time of greater uncertainty, Immelt indicated that this atmosphere is likely to be with us for awhile and that the outcome of the presidential election will have no bearing on global economic uncertainty. "You can change your plan now and then but people want to see a point of view," he advised.
The second thing a good leader needs is metrics. When Immelt (pictured at right) visits customers,he asks them what they measure, and how they measure success. "Whenever I have to replace a leader, I always see two things: No one knows what the measurements are, and no one knows who they work for," he shared. "Even doctors need to be measured...it doesn't have to be financial it can be quality."
To this end, a good leader needs to know how work gets done. Immelt is hands-on when it comes to understanding how a front-line person gets his work done and decorates his office with photographs of employees building jets and MRI scanners.
Whether you run a big radiology group or a hospital radiology department, you need to be a person who knows how to listen, how to learn, and how to find out what you need to get better at, Immelt advised. "In radiology today, you should probably be working on some sort of cycle time reduction program," he said
The third thing leaders need is to be a good investor. "I always think of leadership as risk and reward," he said. GE is investing a couple hundred million dollars in Nigeria with an upside potential of $10 billion. A nuclear power plant in the US, he added, is less likely to get the green light: "If you do everything right you will make $100 million, and if you do one thing wrong it will cost $200 million, then I'm not going to do it."
"People who don't take risk are going to get hammered," he added.
The last thing Immelt talked about was culture and developing people, acknowledging that his least favorite course in business school was organizational behavior. "I thought it was soft; my punishment is that now it's all I do," he said.
GE spends a lot of time on evaluations, people, and culture, he said. The GE culture is mission based, grounded in belief in the products they sell, continuous improvement, and the notion that there is always a better way.
"POV, accountability and metrics, knowing how work gets, how to be a good investor, and you are the purveyor of people and culture," Immelt said. "if you do those things, you are going to be a pretty good leader in difficult, unmanageable times."