People invest their time, talent and treasure in every activity they commit to participate in. Leaders understand the value proposition of what their followers are expecting in return, and deliver the highest return on investment.
A man bought some land that appeared to have little value. After owning the land for several years, he was approached by an oilman who wanted to drill a few wells on the land to see what resources might be hidden beneath the surface. Before he knew what happened, one of those wells started spewing oil beyond anything the land owner or oilman dreamed possible.
The land owner was an instant millionaire, or was he a millionaire the day he bought the land and just didn’t realize the hidden value until the well unleashed the oil? What if that oilman hadn’t come along to encourage him to drill a few wells to ‘find’ the oil?
Leading people to discover the value of what they have, and what they can do with it is how leaders create value. That is true in business, family and community.
One of my personal heroes of leadership is Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric. Jack assumed the role of leader at GE in April of 1981 and officially retired on September 10, 2001. There is some irony that he chose the day before 9-11 to turn the company over to his successor, Jeff Immelt.
Jack Welch had a reputation as a tough and demanding boss, for whom many people found it difficult to work for. The other side of that issue is that Jack Welch had a definite vision for his company. He was able to convey that mission to many of the 300,000 workers at General Electric, and he was not tolerant of those who didn’t get or buy into his vision.
Jack Welch viewed the leadership role of the chief executive officer of one of the largest corporations in the world in a unique way. He believed the job of most of the employees of General Electric to create ideas, products and sales. It was their responsibility, he felt, to make General Electric the number one competitor in every market where they competed. It was the responsibility of top management to create leaders.
Jack Welch concentrated his efforts on creating the leaders who would create ideas, products and sales. The creation of those leaders would build the value that was expected from the shareholders for whom he worked. During the 20 years that Jack Welch led General Electric; the value of the shareholders’ investment increased fifty fold, a phenomenal rate of increase in value for the shareholders.
Since many of the employees of General Electric are also shareholders, they also benefited from that increase in value and they also enjoyed the benefits of working for one of the world’s largest corporations.
Since many of the customers of General Electric are shareholders, they also benefited from the increase in value of the company. Those customers also benefited from better jet engines, medical imaging devices and thousands of other innovative products.
Creating value as a strategy of leadership can be applied to helping those we lead to recognize their own value. It can also be implemented to inspire others to do more and accomplish more. And, creating value can be accomplished by inspiring those we lead to become better leaders themselves.