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The 8 Rules of Leadership by Jack Welch

Leadership is best taught by example. Follow these eight indisputable rules directly from the playbook of the former head of GE.

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Leadership is all about growing others. It's about your team and its welfare. It's about your direct reports and their performance.

Leadership is a tough act. It's a daily balancing act. As a leader, you're expected to use your insight, experience, and rigor to balance the conflicting demands of short- and long-term results.

So, what do leaders do? Does leadership have rules? Former General Electric boss Jack Welch says so in his classic 2009 book Winningwhich he wrote with Suzy Welch.

His rules of leadership are as follows:

1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.

The team with the best players wins—and leaders should expend their energy and time in evaluating, coaching, and building the self-confidence of team members.

"People development," Welch writes, "should be a daily event, integrated into every aspect of your regular goings-on."

As a leader, it's important to recognize and acknowledge the good work of your team in order to continue to encourage peak performance, why instilling confidence.

2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, but they also live and breathe it.

Good leaders cast the vision of the future and motivate people to buy into it. They constantly talk about their vision and reinforce it with rewards, which may be in the form of a salary, bonus, or significant recognition of some sort.

Even without the rewards, just sharing your vision as a leader can in itself bring about the motivation your team needs to accomplish the most difficult of assignments. 

3. Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.

Effective leaders fight the negative forces of life and encourage their teams with a high level of optimism that keeps members upbeat.

Welch says they do not allow a bad economy or brutal competition to put them down to the extent that their team catches the bug.

Why? "Unhappy tribes have a tough time winning," Welch writes.

Nothing brings down the morale of a team more than an unenthusiastic or disengaged leader. Your job is to be part coach and part cheerleader. 

4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.

Welch decries a situation where leaders hoard information that could benefit direct reports in the performance of their duties. This, he says, drains trust right out of a team. And that, "trust happens when leaders are transparent, candid, and keep their word."

Leaders, he also says, establish trust by giving credit where it is due. They detest a situation where they'll take credit for someone else's idea or work.

If you want your team to be transparent with you, you need to lead by example. 

5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.

Effective leaders listen to their gut, Welch says, regardless of what team members think.

"Obviously," he writes, "tough calls spawn complaints and resistance. Your job is to listen and explain yourself clearly but move forward. Do not dwell or cajole."

Decision making is ultimately what you'll be judged on as a leader, as your choices could determine the overall success of the organization. With transparency, trust and a clear vision, you'll find that your team will stand behind your decisions (right or wrong). 

6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.

To get bigger and better solutions, Welch says leaders probe proposals and presentations by asking questions and stirring up a healthy debate.

He writes:

"When you're a leader, your job is to have all the questions. You have to be incredibly comfortable looking like the dumbest person in the room. Every conversation you have about a decision, a proposal, or a piece of market information has to be filled with you saying, 'What if?' and 'Why not?' and 'How come?'"

Challenging your employees is an art, not a science. Each individual requires a unique approach. It's your job as a leader to get their best without diminishing their productivity. 

7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.

"Winning companies," Welch writes, "embrace risk-taking and learning." Leaders set the example and encourage team members to experiment without being afraid of making mistakes.

Experimentation is a major key to growth. Make sure your team feels confident in making mistakes. 

8. Leaders celebrate

While noting that leaders don't celebrate enough, the former GE boss advocates that leaders make a big deal out of small wins because "celebrating makes people feel like winners and creates an atmosphere of recognition and positive energy."

Don't be afraid in celebrating early and often. Far too many leaders believe celebrating small victories leads to complacency. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

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