Gen. Colin Powell and GE's Jeff Immelt Talk About Leadership

Colin Powell and Jeff Immelt at DreamforceGeneral Colin Powell and General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt joined Dreamforce today to share inspiring personal and business stories.

The two leaders chatted with Marc Benioff in front of a packed keynote room and revealed not only their vision for the future job creation and current affairs but also let us in on how they keep up with their tech-savvy grandchildren. There was even a quote from the “great philosopher Mike Tyson,” as Jeff Immelt put it.

To watch a full recording of the conversation, scroll down the bottom of the post.

Here are some of the key take-aways from this talk:

What is the impact of the social/digital revolution?
 

Gen. Colin Powell: “It’s been a revolutionary development in the past 25-30 years. I am proud to say that it was the U.S. Armed Forces that developed the Internet and the GPS that everyone now uses...we gotta get a little credit for that.“ --

“There are dangers with this revolution, especially the social part of it. Where we are so interconnected that perhaps we are too interconnected.”

“We now have the ability to move information, knowledge, capital, opportunity around the world to the poorest people. Through the use of social networks and the information revolution we are able to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Jeff Immelt: “ We are a 130-year-old company we have to constantly say how do we stay contemporary and fresh. So one of the pillars of our company is to be a learning company and to always want to learn what’s next.” --

“In my world I am always fighting size and bureaucracy and what social media does is give me access to customers and employees anywhere.”

“The ability to go man to machine and marry real-time customer data with real-time performance data of our product is the holy grail of our business.”

How has the information age changed leadership?

Gen Colin Powell: “The young people are digitally wired so you have to keep up wither them. But in the same time you still have to inspire them, give them a sense of purpose, show them that you respect them and trust them so that machines don’t get into the way of human interaction. 

Jeff Immelt: I give you 3 words. Openness. There is going back in this information age -- you have to be willing to share more and you better just deal with it. Authenticity. People don’t want to work for a phony. They want to be mission based, they want to believe in what they are doing, believe in a leader. Unity -- people want to be on teams.

What’s the evolution of the U.S. economy look like?

Colin Powell and Jeff Immelt at DreamforceJeff Immelt:
Government does not create jobs. What you want is government to create the structure on which entrepreneurs can create jobs.


Some common sense suggestions: 1. Training -- over 5 million jobs go unfilled because there are not enough welders, engineers and so on. 2. Fast growth companies -- like salesforce.com, you are the engine of most jobs being created. 3. Regulatory simplification. 4. Infrastructure creates jobs 5. Tone -- people need to come out and say that it’s good to invest.

The future is energy independence. We sit on more natural gas that you can imagine. We have some of the best wind corridors. We’ve got renewable portfolio that is strong. We have great colleges and universities → this [the economy] is imminently fixable.

Gen. Colin Powell: The jobs that are gone are not necessarily going to come back. We have to create new jobs and go up in the ladder of sophistication. We better start educating our kids for the jobs that are really going to be here in the United States.

More thoughts on leadership:

Gen. Colin Powell: I think any leader has to have his or her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the information revolution,  the pulse of international economic system. The most important thing is to create organizations that are high-performing that believe in themselves.

Everybody is looking up to leaders who are selfless, leaders who a passionate about the purpose of the organization and have ability to convey this passion down to the last person in the organization at the lowest level. You create that kind of a team and they will do anything you ask of them.

I no longer use the words “motivate your people” I saw “inspire your people.”

The best leaders understand that human being are more important than the information system or the tools and robotic systems -- they are the most important part of any org.

Jeff Immelt: There are things learned from military: 1. Be purposeful 2. Work on what’s important 3. Adaptability.