Jack Welch and the 4 E’s of Leadership by Jeffrey A. Krames

Jeffrey A. Krames is one of the world’s foremost experts on Jack Welch and had 3 of his books named “Best Leadership Books of the Year”. The 20+ years that Welch ran GE, it became the most valuable corporation in the world, increased in value over thirty times and under his leadership turned out more Fortune 500 CEO’s than any other company in history.

I would think those are pretty good reasons to invest a little time in understanding what are the defining characteristics of the world’s most powerful leaders.

The 4 E model is gaining fame in the business press. This book not only gives you a good primer in those characteristics but provides excellent case studies of how this model can be exported to other companies, in other industries.

The 4 E’s of Leadership

Energy – Individuals with energy love to “go, go, go.” These people possess boundless energy and get up every day ready to attack the job at hand. High energy people move at 95 miles-per-hour in a 55 mile-per-hour world.

Energizers – know how to spark others to perform. They outline a vision and get people to carry it out. Energizers know how to get people excited about a cause or a crusade. They are selfless in giving others the credit when things go right, but quick to accept responsibility when things go awry.

Edge – Those with edge are competitive types. They know how to make the really difficult decisions, such as hiring, firing and promoting, never allowing the degree of difficulty to stand in their way.

Execute – The key to the entire model. Without measurable results, the other “E’s” are of little use. Executers recognize that activity and productivity are not the same and are capable of converting energy and edge into action and results.

Welch took 20 years to develop this model, in about 100 pages in section 1, you can benefit from all the effort and re-working that went into getting to this all encompassing set of characteristics.

At the end of each chapter Krames provides a quiz to Assess your “E _ _ _ ” quotient and then provides a “4E Leader to do list” which will help you get your organization further up the assessment scale.

Throughout the text there are great quotes and examples from authors such as Peter Drucker, Jim Collins and Peter Senge. It provides you specific actions for recognizing and rewarding authentic leaders and becoming a 4E Leader yourself.

The second part of the book shows how this can be transformed into other businesses and industries, by using examples of the key Welch protégés efforts to lead their business’ once they became CEO.

In “Blow it Up”, we see the modifications used by Jeffrey Immelt, the current CEO of General Electric. His challenge is not only to replace one of the most “larger than life” CEO’s in history, but do it with a much larger entity in the GE of the early 21st century.

In “Make Leadership Development a Top Priority”, Krames describes how James McNerney used these principles at 3M to energize another industrial giant into using key programs such as 6 Sigma and a variety of the personal development methods of GE.

In “Execution is Everything”, we see the focus that Welch’s one time right hand man, Larry Bossidy drove execution deep into Allied Signal, and actually is credited with introducing 6 Sigma into the GE world. Bossidy along with Ram Charan, wrote the best selling Execution.

In “Enhance, Extend, Expand”, Bob Nardelli the new CEO of Home Depot, extends the GE processes deep into a retailing environment, with the success that has been seen over the last several years.

There is also an excellent chapter on how to use the book in Training, Management Workshops and Performance reviews.

At the beginning of the book, Krames lays out 4 objectives:

  • To explain clearly, and in depth, Jack Welch’s 4E’s Leadership model, its history, development and so on.
  • To provide specific ways to apply the model that can be acted upon to enhance productivity throughout the organization.
  • To validate the 4E model by calling upon other experts who can corroborate and elaborate upon elements of the model.
  • To show how the 4E model has impacted the “next generation” of great business leaders.

I think this book does a great job of meeting all these objectives. I also think that Welch beyond the hype has some very sensible and battle tested thoughts on creating great leaders.

Whether you want to become such a leader yourself, and / or create a company of such people as your legacy, this is a very good primer on the leadership methods applied so capably at one of the world’s great leadership factories.