From a note sent to me today by an incoming MBA at one of the top-ranked such programs in North America. It turns out his class had a surprise visitor on their first day of MBA-ing:
Today was the first day of my MBA. Who would you get to come and speak in front of an audience of 550+ MBAs and invited guests? Of course, it would be someone who can teach you a thing or two about how to run a $500–billion company. (Well, I would have settled for a $500–million company, but what the hell.) It was Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.
While Jack had some fun stuff to offer, I wasn’t overly impressed with the questions people sent his way. Typical was the following sort of thing, “How would you create a company culture based on [insert common buzzword here’?” Come on people, there is way more interesting stuff you can ask.
Actually there was one interesting point covered: Jack’s views on management consulting as a job. When Welch spoke recently at the MIT Sloan School of Management he sneered at consultants, saying MBAs should "get a real job" instead. When asked about that comment this time, he says "Sure, use consulting to see lots of companies, just please don't stay there." I love it.
Better question fodder, however, can be found in Jack’s comments in the current New Yorker Magazine. He is quoted saying, “Rick [Warren], you are the biggest thinker I have ever met in my life. The only person I know who thinks more globally is Rupert Murdoch.” Granted Jack, Rick Warren has created an empire out of nothing, but I also understand he is also mentoring you on a “spiritual journey”. So where does this move towards spirituality really come from, especially given that you have typically been lukewarm about the whole idea of religion?
Now there is a topic that has some relevance to where the man is now. As some have astutely pointed out, there is something in Welch’s newfound fascination with faith that reeks vaguely of cynicism, or at least of the re-branding of Jack :
So this is what we have. After being hailed as one of America’s greatest business executives of all times, Jack Welch retires and promptly dumps his second wife for a magazine editor who conducts an interview with him. In the process of an ugly divorce, he gets slammed with some horrific PR about extraordinarily lavish benefits GE provides him in retirement.
So here is a better question: Jack, has there been something missing in your life all along, or is your current fixation with Rick Warren just another part of a grand strategy to rebuild dominance for brand Jack Welch, uber-CEO?