Horizontal Strength

What does it take for a person to rise through the ranks of an organization to a top leadership position? According to Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, it begins and ends with respect.



Last week I had the pleasure of attending an interview of Immelt at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, after a rigorous and highly publicized process, Immelt became the successor to the legendary Jack Welch in 2001.

Having been with GE for 18 years at the time of his appointment, he reflected that getting noticed in an organization of 300,000 employees was always about the work - never about the career. It was about creating things - "in a company like GE you can create the future." But when all is said and done, Immelt says that "your peers will ultimately decide how far you go" in an organization.

Immelt continued, "your boss kind of has to like you, and the people that report to you, they depend on you; but your peers... that you have to earn. And I think that if you're more of a giver than a taker, your peers sense that... and in the end, in any institution, it's this horizontal strength that keeps institutions together." Being a good friend, a good team member, a good partner, a good co-worker, those things come together when it is time to exercise influence.

How is your horizontal strength?​

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