What Made jack welch JACK WELCH: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders

Stephen H. Baum with Dave Conti

Crown Business,  August 2007

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Surprisingly, it's not about education or pedigree or even native smarts. Most of us are like jack welch, who started life as a lowercase guy, the son of a railroad conductor, but went on to become the most celebrated and successful executive of recent years. Sure, Jack Welch -- and lots of other people like him -- are smart and talented, but there are countless people even smarter and more talented who stall out on the way up. Something else is going on. What is it, and what can the rest of us learn from such people to improve our own chances of accomplishment?

Stephen Baum uncovers not only the business secrets of prominent CEOs but their inner stories as well. He ferrets out the real men and women behind public personas, learning about life-shaping experiences they all have in common that turn out to be the foundation for true success in career and in life. Baum has gotten them to recall key moments they hadn't thought about for years, as well as the fears, emotions, and learning they've experienced during moments of challenge and doubt.

The seminal events are "archetypal shaping experiences" -- critical and often unexpected learning moments when future leaders take advantage of challenges thrown in their path:

  • When you take calculated personal risks without the safety net of specific instructions on how to proceed.
  • When you are clueless about how to solve a knotty problem but dive in and prepare yourself to work through it.
  • When you learn to swim in water over your head, make the tough choice, get good on your feet, or are forced to take a hard look in the mirror. These character-building moments engender an inner core of toughness and confidence that is the real key to leadership in any business or endeavor -- they are what made jack welch . . . Jack Welch.
Stephen Baum provides an entirely new way of thinking about how to fulfill your dreams and aspirations. You'll come away the feeling that "if they can do it, so can I" . . . and that is the first step on the journey to becoming extraordinary, awakening the JACK WELCH that lives in each of us -- just waiting to take us further than anyone could have predicted.

hardcover | ISBN: 9780307337207 | Publication Date: August 2007

"Stephen  H. Baum's book is clever, realistic, surprising, and wise. Every would-be leader should learn something from it."
--Joseph L. Badaracco Jr., John Shad Professor of Business Ethics and chair of MBA Program, Harvard Business School

"As a new CEO, I found Stephen Baum's book full of insight and inspiration. He has spent decades working with, studying, and interviewing dozens of CEOs. His book captures those experiences, demonstrating the power of shaping experiences and providing examples of how we can all become better leaders."
--Daryl Brewster, CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

"Great leaders have uncommon integrity, sound judgment, and deep passion, and they have the confidence to seek out and embrace tough challenges. Baum describes the core characteristics and formative experiences of some of our nation's most effective business leaders and shows how their experiences shaped their capacity to lead. This book will be useful reading for students, young professionals, and others who aspire to take leadership roles in their careers and communities."
--John Casteen, president of the University of Virginia

"Where do great leaders come from? Not education or pedigree. Baum takes us inside the CEO during the very personal shaping experiences and development of the strengths that made them extraordinary leaders. This book gives hope and practical advice for personal growth of anyone aspiring to greater levels of responsibility. These are lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking, decisiveness, and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
--Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization

"Stephen Baum has done it! This is the definitive book of how -- and why -- leaders are made, not born. In an engaging and readable style, Baum draws upon key shaping experiences of numerous leaders to illustrate how these experiences powerfully affect leaders' ability to lead -- and to inspire trust. The book is immensely practical and realistic while simultaneously being filled with wisdom and insight."
--Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust

Baum addresses the reader as an adviser, counselor, and friend, pointing out that leadership can be acquired if one is sensitive to one's past and focused properly on one's future. What is especially valuable is the idea that success is built on a foundation of different and sometimes small experiences both positive as well as negative. Baum points out a strength of America: that one can fail and yet come back again and succeed. His true-life descriptions add reality to his advice and make the book very readable. This really is a good book!"
--Leonard Harlan, founder of Castle Harlan, Inc.

"This practical and helpful book works because the reader immediately concludes: 'I can do this.' They can see themselves in similar activities and can put them into action right away. Baum lays out the approach in coherent fashion while simultaneously making it accessible in compelling real-life stories. The CEOs come alive as human, flawed, and inspiring. The reader can become not only a better leader but a better human being."
--Eva Miranda, general manager on Sony Metreon Retail Center

"What Made jack welch Jack Welch is both pragmatic and insightful -- Baum successfully captures how aspiring leaders develop their DNA through good and not so good experiences to arrive at greatness. This book is a must-read for leadership students, practitioners and dissenters alike!"
--Reggie Van Lee, senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton