The Secret Of Successful Leadership Is…? Self-Criticism!


That is the answer according to Jeff Immelt and he should know as he has been the boss of US giant General Electric (GE) for 12 years. He says “I think you can’t do a job like this for a long time unless you’re horribly self-critical,” he also said “You have to be massively self-aware, because if you’re not, it is so easy to be blind to problems.”

GE has offices and other operations in more than 160 countries around the world and employs more than 300,000 employees. In 2012 GE made a net profit of $13.6bn (£8.5bn) from revenues of $147bn.

I totally agree with Jeff. I spend a lot of time working with senior managers and business leaders and I have to say that most are extremely confident in their own ability. In fact some are far too confident! The problem with over confidence is we fail to see ourselves as other people do and therefore become self-obsessed. In addition you never work to improve what is already perfect.

In short, over confidence is the biggest barrier to learning there is. If you don’t see your faults and failings you won’t be able to do anything about them.

Obviously Jeff Immelt does not go around telling everyone what his weaknesses are, that would be madness. His self-criticism is something that he does in private; it’s what I like to call self-coaching and here’s how it works?

Before any key business meeting or phone call ask yourself three questions: 1) What is my primary objective for this task? 2) What is my secondary objective? (If I can’t achieve primary), 3) What is my fall back objective? (If I can’t achieve the top 2).

After each meeting or call take time to review your questions, how did you perform? What did you do well and what could you have done better? If faced with similar circumstances again, what would you do differently?

Force yourself to try this technique for a few weeks and it will become habitual. Be honest with yourself and be self-critical on how well you are doing at being self-critical.

The other great way to ensure constant awareness is to ask. At the end of all our training courses we issue a questionnaire to solicit feedback on how well we performed as educators. These are invaluable and constructive feedback should always be welcomed.

The phrase I love is “When pointing the finger of blame, remember that three of your own fingers will be pointing back at you!” If you use this philosophy when examining situations you will always find something that YOU could have done differently. If the same thing keeps happening then you haven’t learned the lesson yet!

Now how did I do with this blog? What could I have done better?

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 30 October, 2013

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