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Legendary GE Leader Jack Welch Pays A Visit To 'His' Business School At SHU

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, meets with students from the College of Business at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, meets with students from the College of Business at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — It's not every day that college students get to hear first-hand from the a business leader so legendary that their school is named for him.

But over 200 business students at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield recently had that opportunity as Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric and the namesake of SHU’s College of Business, paid a visit.

The business titan took part in a question-and-answer session with President John J. Petillo and the business students in the atrium of the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center on campus.

Petillo first asked Welch, 81, who led GE for 20 years up the street from SHU, what it takes to be a good manager.

“It’s recognizing that it’s not all about them,” Welch said. “It’s about the team you build and the trust you build.” He emphasized the importance of being honest with employees, because it means getting truth in return. “You get truth when you build and earn trust. You build personal relationships and care about your employees … There’s no hidden agenda. It’s all on the table.”

When asked about the traits of a successful leader, Welch said leaders need to have positive energy and the ability to execute plans; they must energize and excite others; and they need to have an edge and passion.

He told students to view business as a game and, as with any game, “winning is good and it’s fun. You want your team to get excited. You want to make it personal,” said Welch, who wrote a bestselling book called "Winning."

Students asked Welch for tips on how to be successful.

He encouraged students to read the Wall Street Journal every day. He also said he makes decisions off his gut feelings and by looking at data and analytics. “I would say I’m 60/40,” Welch said.

There are no new tricks for succeeding in business, Welch said. “It’s nothing more than a high school football team. You’re melding a group of people around a common objective, and everyone knows their assignment,” he said.

Welch ended his talk by telling the students that business doesn’t have to be just a job. “You have the chance to have all the fun in the world. It’s the greatest thrill in the world,” he said.

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