Jack Welch and My Mom – two E’s for Leadership



Is it purely a metaphor when we say someone is “beaming?” Or is there something there – something real – even if we don’t have the tools to measure it? I ask this question, because my mom — stunned to see a room full of people secretly assembled to celebrate her 80th birthday — had her high beams on! Oh, the energy expressed across her wisened face was real. Energy that could light a room – with arguably a much more important kind of light than that measured by lumens. An energy belonging to the same type as the feeling that spreads through a theater when Meryl Streep delivers a decisive line of independence; or the look of love of a mom as her nine-month-old takes his first few steps on his own; or the electricity sure to be in the air when the Lions finally win a Thanksgiving Day game.

Leadership is about our connection in such human systems. And leadership is about that kind of energy. Mom’s beaming was fueled by the stored energy of our love for her. In the extraordinary eco-system of a highly functional family, the energy we generated for my mom was largely produced by… you guessed it… mom’s investment of energy into all of us over so many years.

Is this motivational mush?  Hard-nosed Jack Welch would say absolutely not. In Welch’s famous 4 E’s of leadership, the first is the positive energy of the leader herself or himself.* The great ones are continually positive, driving forward, boundless. And the second E in Welch’s scheme is they energize others. Welch was huge on finding people who had that special quality, where they were actors and not reactors, where people wanted to work with them because they loved challenge and change. My mom, deeply steeped in the Catholic tradition of gratitude and giving, has been a wonderful albeit much quieter example of a tireless, pay-it-forward, move ahead leader. Who wouldn’t want to “work for” her?

So, are your high beams on today? Do you perhaps need to open up your receptors to take in the energy of others who want to contribute to you?  In turn, are you ready to pour energy into others – jump-start their tired holiday batteries, even when you don’t know whether those batteries will store the charge, or whether they’ll fully utilize the energy you’re pouring forth?

If you’re looking for more energizing thoughts, might I invite you on Cyber Monday to pick up my new book Be Real: Inspiring Stories for Leading at Home and Work; chapter four is on emotion and motion and chapter eight is on challenge.  I hope it might help you to:

Lead with your best self!


* Jeffrey Krames writes about Welch’s philosophy in

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