Exemplary Leadership Behavior
General Electric (GE) is a multinational organization from the United States whose business concerning various sectors such as oil and gas, healthcare, aviation, transportation, and capital. The company has ranked among the best corporations in leadership for many years. Its success originates from the behaviors of its leaders at all levels of organizational structure. The following paper explores the conduct that leaders at GE exhibit for each of the five practices of exemplary leadership and the perspective of the employees on the leadership behaviors, as well as offers recommendations for further improvement.
Leaders Behaviors for Each of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership
Modeling the Way
Leaders who model the way create the principles that guide people regarding the ways of treating their peers, clients, or colleagues. They lead by example through setting goals and showing their followers how to achieve them. Such people divide the goals into long-term and short-term thus enabling the achievement of interim wins and sustain motivation. When bureaucracy impedes action, they unravel it, which helps organizations to meet objectives unhindered. Such behaviors are common at GE, because the executive leaders have established the culture of excellence in every function. The company’s values, which are the cornerstones for its culture, include teamwork, passion, resourcefulness, curiosity, energizing, and commitment. The culture that emerges from these values ensures that leadership is not concentrated at the top but develops in the entire organization. Leaders at GE have set an example of how to treat others properly. GE offers flexible work arrangements for the employees experiencing various personal challenges. Leadership encourages the employees to support each other in both work and personal related challenges. As a result, the company resembles a family that transfers its cooperation and love into work and in such a way generates incentive and creativity. The leader-follower relationship leads to innovation because of the exchange of ideas and mutual care (Friedrich, Griffith & Mumford, 2016). Positive energy that emanates from such a culture drives GE’s success. The company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeffrey Immelt establishes clear goals for all the divisions and clearly communicates his expectations. Since modeling the way involves giving people directions during uncertain times, the CEO uses a paradoxical lens to help followers deal with uncertainty (Zhang, Waldman, Han & LI, 2015). As long as leaders use transformational leadership, they have positive impact on their employees by reducing their negative attitudes (Lanaj, Johnson & Lee, 2016).
Enabling Others to Act
Enabling involves making people feel powerful and capable, as well as establishing collaboration through the spirited teams. The leaders that enable others create the environment that values human dignity (Hill & Jones, 2011). GE leaders understood the influence of empowering others at the formative stages of the corporation. They established a management training school to impart skills and knowledge to the employees, which would give them the confidence to accept challenging assignments. The training school emphasizes the connection between employees and the provision of knowledge in accordance to the specifics of each function. Additionally, GE owns global research centers in different countries that conduct researches to empower the employees in their decision-making activities. Each Division has representatives in every research centers to ascertain collaboration and development of knowledge that is relevant to each. Consequently, GE creates innovative teams with the employees who feel energized and capable of dealing with emerging challenges.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders who inspire a shared vision convince others in their ability and power to make a difference. Moreover, they enlist others to share their dreams and persuade them to walk the journey of realizing them. They communicate with the followers in a charismatic manner and make them see exciting future possibilities. According to Bottomley, Burgess, and Fox III (2014), vision builders are efficient in supporting the participation of others and manifesting the vision. GE leadership inspires a shared ambition by first looking for talented visionary leaders to steer the team towards success. One of its most legendary performances took place from 1981 to 2001, when John F. Welch, Jr. was the CEO. Welch drove GE’s growth from a market value of $ 14 billion to $410 billion during his leadership tenure. His approach to business embodied his vision, communicated it, and solicited the help of all his management team. Welch gave managers at different levels a free choice to make decisions regarding the ways of achieving their vision provided they acted within the company’s ethics of constant change mantra. What is more, Welch inspired a shared vision by creating a picture of future possibilities in the eyes of his employees. He envisaged the modern age when only flexible organizations would survive by changing in order to take advantage of emerging opportunities. The vision he created has passed from his time to the current era, where Jeffrey Immelt connects GE’s ambition with that of the employees. As such, it becomes easy for the workers to own the vision and ensure its achievement.
Challenging the Process
When challenging the process, leaders seek the opportunities to disrupt the status quo and innovative ways to change organizations. They accept both failure and success in equal measure, because each represents a chance for learning. In this regard, they take risks and support experimentation. GE leaders have set a momentum for change that increases the organization’s flexibility by means of challenging the old ways of operating business and implementing the new methods. From the time of Welch to the reign of Immelt, GE allows its employees to take risks and does not penalize their failure. What is more, GE celebrates those who have enough courage to risk regardless of whether their ventures fail or succeed. GE appreciates them by acknowledging their initiative publicly.
Encouraging the Heart
Encouraging the heart encompasses recognizing the inputs of each person in a winning team. The behavior honors accomplishments and makes people feel heroic. The intention of celebrating the heart is aimed at fueling the morale of the workers and sustaining it over the long haul. GE applies a 20/70/10 differentiation strategy suggested by Welch to deal with employee motivation. According to the strategy, 20% of workers are recognized as those whose performance is exceptional. The GE executive leaders reward the 20% of the employees with money, public recognitions, opportunities for growth, and promotions. The 70% are the average performers whom the leaders at GE motivate by using stock options as a way of encouraging to become the part of the previously described group of people. The 10% are those that the company must dismiss because their performance does not conform to its standards. The strategy thus encourages excellent performance by appreciating people’s effort.
Employees’ Views of the Leadership Behaviors
There are the success stories from numerous employees about the leadership behaviors at GE. Bela Lajos, an employee of GE global operations, elaborates on how the GE leadership provided him with the needed environment to contribute to the growth of the organization by giving him autonomy. Additionally, leaders at the GE global operations coached him thus enabling to take ownership of his responsibilities. Elaine Martin is a senior IT engineer at GE Power who appreciates the flexibility of working hours and vacations that the company’s leadership created to allow workers to take control of their time. The program permits them to take paid time off and recover the hours during the weekends, and illustrates the leadership’s commitment to challenging the process to suggest the new ways of accomplishing tasks and performing professional duties. It is a sign of GE’s consideration of employees’ welfare by ensuring they have a healthy work-life balance. Amy Steingraeber works at the GE Aviation Division and argues that if she could, she would work for GE without even being paid. She reveals the story about how the entire GE leadership supported her when her child got sick with a terminal disease. Various leaders at GE modeled the way for Steingraeber by showing others how they should treat people. GE allowed her to have a long leave to take care of the kid and provided a work location near her home. When GE disbanded the department for which she worked, the leaders looked for a position in which Steingraeber could continue serving the organization. Such stories reflect the positive views of the workers concerning the leaders’ behaviors.
GE’s training programs are rather formal and focus on the top-to-bottom approach, which contradicts the company’s effort to eliminate stiffness in the organizational structure. Additionally, its employee performance review is tedious and cumbersome for the personnel. Therefore, the leaders should make the learning process less formal and shorten the reviews to become attractive to millennials, since the latter prefer swift approaches to life and might not prefer working in an organization that is so formal.
Secondly, apart from the assessment in which the top leaders evaluate the rest of the workers, GE should also allow the employees to evaluate the managers that have a direct impact on their work. Such a move would be consistent with transformational leadership. According to Asencio and Mujkic (2016), transformational leadership increases trust between the leaders and their followers, which further influences employee productivity. Making the results of the review public leads to the improved opportunities and increased trust. The evaluation is critical because it can help GE to detect corporate disintegration before any potential difficulties in management and operation.
GE exemplifies the five practices in different ways. Firstly, the leaders empower others to act through the company’s management training school and global research centers. They inspire a shared ambition by hiring the best talent and creating a vision of future possibilities. Furthermore, the organization’s leadership encourages the heart by rewarding performance using the differentiation strategy. They also challenge the process by allowing risk taking and setting a momentum for change to increase flexibility. The employees’ views of the leadership are generally positive as demonstrated by their GE stories. The recommended actions for improvement include reducing the formality of training programs, eliminating tiresome performance reviews, and allowing the workers to review their managers.
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Hill, C.W., & Jones, G.R. (2011). Essentials of strategic management Boston: Cengage Learning.
Lanaj, K., Johnson, R.E., & Lee, S.M. (2016). Benefits of transformational behaviors for leaders: A daily investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(2), 237–251.
Zhang, Y., Waldman, D.A., Han, Y., & LI, X. (2015). Paradoxical leader behaviors in people management: Antecedents and consequences. Academy of Management Journal, 58(2), 538–566.