General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt on resilience in the face of change
Over the past year, Jeff Immelt has talked about GE’s ambitious plan to transform the industrial heavyweight into an “industrial software” company by 2020. And each quarter, shareholders and pundits voice their thoughts on how the company is performing, or not, against that goal.
So, how does Mr. Immelt himself feel about that? For a company as large as GE, transformation is not easy. He notes that good leadership is about “resilience.” And that “leaders who are good today, what we admire most, is what we do when things don’t work.”
We at Sappington couldn’t agree more. Great change doesn’t happen overnight. It happens incrementally, and usually through several iterations. We support Mr. Immelt’s steadfast determination to see his vision through, despite the external (and very public) criticisms lobbed in his direction. Great leaders need space—and time—to effect great change. And sixteen years in, Immelt remains undaunted. He’s more than ready to continue leading the company’s digital journey.
See the interview here.
We were saddened to read the news of Mr. Immelt’s retirement from GE, announced on June 12, 2017. While the company noted the timing was in line with their long-term succession planning, it also helped appease investors clamoring for change at the firm. It is our belief, however, that enacting change is a long-term strategy, and great leaders need time for visions to come to life. In today’s rapid-fire, competitive landscape, however, time is an expensive commodity.
What does this all mean for the future of the firm? GE CIO Jim Fowler noted that “Immelt was key to driving digital initiatives, inside the company and commercially through its products.” It remains to be seen if CEO Flannery will remain similarly focused on technology to drive transformation at the company. Or if, as some investors argue, he looks instead to cut costs and further break up the business to boost revenues. At Sappington, we hope to see a new age of digital innovation across GE, building on the great work of Mr. Immelt.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 21, 2017 following the announced retirement of Mr. Immelt.
 Eide, Naomi. “GE loses behind digital efforts as CEO Jeff Immelt steps down.” CIO Dive. June 12, 2017. http://www.ciodive.com/news/ge-ceo-jeff-immelt-steps-down/444757/