If you were to ask most people in the learning industry which organization they thought developed the best leaders, chances are a good number would say GE. This company has actually been termed a “leadership factory” by pundits due to the many executives who started at GE and went on to lead other large enterprises.
Last week, the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) kicked off a Marketing Case Competition with a theme of “leadership,” so perhaps it’s no surprise that GE Healthcare Financial Services would serve as the enthusiastic sponsor of the event. The event got under way last Thursday with an opening keynote from Jeff Malehorn, CEO of GE Healthcare Financial Services, who offered a high-level overview of what qualities GE looks for in its leaders.
He also talked about his own rise through the ranks of the company and explained that he has never stopped developing his own leadership skills.
“You don’t graduate from this fine institution and stop learning,” he told the students. “You don’t spend 24 years at GE like I have and one day decide, ‘Well, I’m done learning how to lead.’”
Below are some of his remarks on central components of leadership at GE:
● Integrity: “When you come in as an employee for the company, you’re expected sign something to indicate you understand our policy, employment acts and so forth. In my view, this means simply doing the right thing. First and foremost, this is about trust. You have to have employees’ trust and leadership’s trust. The eyes will be on you. Employees who work for you will be looking to see if you’re true to your word, and if you follow through on your actions. At GE, we step back and say, ‘You are going to be evaluated from the moment a questionable situation gets brought to your attention. How did you handle it? Were there any surprises? What did you disclose?’”
● Interest in development, both as a teacher and a learner: “We invest about $1 billion in training annually. You get a lot of formal training when you’re at GE. I easily spend 30 percent of my time on people and training-related issues. When you’re a leader at GE, you have two key people at your right and left hand. Your right hand is your finance leader, and your left hand is your HR leader. It’s about making sure you have the right environment. Are people getting performance appraisals — not just things that say, ‘You’re great!’ but things that ask, ‘Are you self-aware? Can you lay out four to five critical things you have to focus on?’ It’s not just going to a training class. It’s making sure we’re spending time with performance coaching for our employees, giving them clear goals and objectives, and helping them work through those goals and objectives. Then we have a process called ‘Session C,’ which identifies talent in any level of the company and figures out how to nurture them. One of the key measures for me is ‘What kind of talent can I develop for the company, so they can go on and lead one of the businesses like I did?’”
● Connected to the world: “We’re a global and diverse company. We try to set up the proper affinity groups so that we can nurture the diverse talent in our company, so they can have a great career with us. You’ll be expected to develop talent. That’s not just the talent in your backyard — it’s the diverse, global talent you’re going to come across running companies. I’m going to guess that 50 percent of you either come from companies or will go to companies that have huge global footprints. You either sell globally or you source products from a global supply chain. You need to understand the dynamics of that global base, and those employees’ diverse backgrounds.”
● Actions and values: “A lot of people ask, ‘How has he been at GE for 24 years?’ It’s about the people. I’ve always enjoyed the people I’ve worked with, because I’ve always thought they had a great set of values, and they’ve always been action-oriented. These are the traits we’re looking for. We want people who are passionate, curious and want to solve the world’s biggest problems. We want people who want to be accountable and work in a meritocracy, where it’s not about their credentials, but what they’re contributing.”