Jack Welch’s Acceptance Speech ~ The Boundaryless Behavior of a Company   4 comments

I wrote this speech for Jack Welch when I attended a speechwriting course. In class theory, I was asked to write a speech for him capturing his voice. I hope I did! Thank you to all my resources.


Speaker: Jack Welch

Introduction for Jack Welch

When I was asked to introduce

The Leader of The Century for 2011

my first question was,

“Is it going to be the creative,

experimental risk taker,

Richard Branson

or maybe the charismatic,

domineering battler Lee Iacocca?

Wrong on both counts.

The voice on the other end of the phone said,

“No just the ruthless pursuer of performance,

Jack Welch.

I almost dropped the receiver.  

I have followed his leadership capabilities

through the years.

Jack Welch has been a true friend

and mentor.

He is the only person

I know who can look at a company

and draw from his experiences

to create a new culture within an organization.

He is the most studied CEO of the 20th century.

Jack Welch began his forty one year career

with the General Electric Company in 1960,

and in 1981 became the company’s eighth chairman

and CEO.  

Fortune named him

“Manager of the century,”

and the Financial Times named him

one of the three most admired business leaders

in the world.

It is my great pleasure

to introduce The Leader of The Century for 2011,

Jack Welch. 

What an honor and distinction to be The Leader of the Century for 2011. 

Thank you 

and good afternoon.

Why are we here?

The Leaders of the Century Award Committee’s

importance brings clarity to those who are considered

a leader of their times

and why they were nominated for the award.

These twelve men and woman congregated

to determine out of thirty nominations

who would be The Leader of The Century.

Their task was not an easy one.

Each candidate had years of experience to explore.  

Knowing the importance of examining their actions

and the impact they made. 

In my opinion,

business is about people.

At the end of the day,

people are what matter.

In life there are leaders and followers.

Through my life I have mastered leadership skills,

learning that without trust,

you have nothing.

The award committee has chosen me

as a reflection of my leadership

and abilities.

I am deeply moved. 

I share this award

with all who worked with me.

Distinguished Leaders of the Century Award Committee,

esteemed Executive Leaders,

Board of Directors,

GE employees,

and my dear family,

Thank you. (Pause)

Thank you for seeing my visions.

Thank you for supporting my leadership.

Being the CEO from 1981 – 2001 had been a great honor.

The fundamental style of working with others for me

was primarily to create an organizational learning culture.

Risk was rewarded to the employees

and for attaining their goals.

This was accomplished by implementing changes

in the organizational mission,


and structure through focusing on qualities

such as vision,

shared values,


and relationship building.

While enhancing the organizational culture

of General Electric,

I incorporated personal identification

between the employees and myself.

I defined shared beliefs reflecting important

and essential issues faced by

members of the group.

Empowering the employees to perform

beyond their expectations.

I stimulated intelligence within the workforce.

I have been told (Slow down)

that I depicted

leadership characteristics

as a CEO by first,

identifying my vision to the team.


setting examples by leading by example.


communicating a common goal.


placing high performance values on each member of the group. 

And last but,

not least fifth,

respect for employees

and explaining that each position within the organization

has room for improvement,

if they reflect on increasing performance.

How can we get less formal?

Not only was the changing of the reward system important

for implementation of the new goals,


I had also brought an air of informality to the company.

From the beginning,

I requested everyone to call me Jack.

My father was Mr. Welch, not me. (Pause)

When people voice their ideas,

the corporation gets less formal.

I don’t wear ties to work

and I have been known

to hold informal meetings

and encourage everyone to lighten up.

Informality inspires people to have more ideas

and it is one of the keys to GE’s success.

My vision incorporated the development of employees,


as well as their suppliers.

I communicated with individuals

on a consistent basis

and at times with hand written notes. 

To increase pride,


and to give everyone a sense of value

resulting in building an efficient workplace.

I believe that our relationship was built on trust,


interpersonal skills,

and loyalty

towards my employees and coworkers.

I motivated them

with my vision

and communication.

But, how can we immerse ourselves

in learning you ask?  

My vision and desire

to transform GE into a learning organization

not only helped to educate the employees but,

expanded this philosophy inside

as well as outside the organization.

It empowered all who were associated

with this company. (Pause)

To encourage the company to lead.

You and I together found a way to lead.

I launched a program for mentoring.

The mentoring and coaching programs

for the employees

proceeded to gear us towards personal development

within the company.

Every manager was a mentor.

I believe that a disparate conglomerate

was transformed into a global teaching organization.

I have to admit and be honest,

at this point and time.

I was afraid of the internet

because I couldn’t type.

I found the self-confidence to overcome my fear.

I found the self-confidence to go head on to make my dreams

for GE a reality.

I found the self-confidence to lead.

Incorporated within my philosophy was trustworthiness

which to me

was the key.

You must gain the trust of your people.  

If you don’t have their trust,

you’ll never be a great leader. 

This aspect was crucial to encourage the employees,


and suppliers in order for them to trust

and accept the beliefs,


and new organizational goals to increase our productivity

and performance. 

In 1980,

the year before I became CEO,

GE recorded revenues of roughly $26.8 billion,

in 2000,

the year before I left,

they were nearly $130 billion.

The company went from a market value of $14 billion

to one of more than $410 billion

at the time of my retirement. (Point up)

Making it the most valuable

and largest company in the world

and I could not have done it without my coworkers,


and management.

What sets GE apart from the rest?

It is our culture that used diversity as a boundless source (Speed up)

of learning opportunities.

It is our culture that used the foundation of understanding

the organization’s ability to learn

and act fast giving us a competitive edge.  

Warren Bennis believed that  

a new leader has to be able to change an organization

that is dreamless, soulless and visionless.

Someone’s got to make a wakeup call. (Look around)

I was that someone.

I then pose the age old question,

Are leaders born or made?

I can only speak for myself.

Through my struggles,



and other experiences

plus throwing in formal education,

I transformed into a leader.

GE’s leader.

I initiated the opening up of a new world

within the organization.

My vision was shared (Point towards audience)

and became our vision leading to future successes. 

My goal was to lead,

to create a vision and make people passionate

about their work.

By today’s ceremony,

I know I have succeeded.


I could not have accomplished

all that I did without everyone’s support.

Throughout our history

each of our leaders

has had a restless drive for a better GE.

And a better world.

And each has extended the company’s tradition

of leadership development

by encouraging the ingenuity of the people around.

I am proud to be added to the list of these great men of GE,

Charles A. Coffin, President, 1892 – 1912 and Chairman, 1913 – 1922. E. W. Rice, President 1913 – 1922. Gerard Swope, President 1942 – 1945 and 

1922 –1940. Owen D. Young, Chairman 1942 – 1945, 1922 – 1940. Charles E. Wilson,  President, 1945 – 1950 and 1940 -1942. Ralph J. Coriner,

Chairman and CEO, 1958 – 1963 and President, 1950 – 1958. Philip D. Reed, Chairman, 1945 -1958 and 1940 -1942. Fred J. Borch, Chairman and CEO,

1967 – 1972 and President and CEO, 1963 – 1967. Gerald L. Phillippe, Chairman, 1963 – 1967 and President, 1961 -1963.

Reginald H. Jones, Chairman and CEO, 1972 – 1981.

And then there was me.

My second goal was to be a teacher in a sense.

As the company moved forward,

everyone had proven an increased awareness.

Of what was right.



and even beautiful.

I had planted seeds

and watched them flourish.

I hope to have touched people’s lives

and elevated their needs for achievement

and self-actualization.

I ask you now,

what makes a great leader?

I believe that we need to do things

that build people’s self-confidence.

It’s all about praising others

and getting excited about their victories.

That’s what makes a great leader.

I personally got my first taste

of leadership

from the scrappy,

aggressive kids in the neighborhood

playing endless games and sports.

I learned to exercise leadership,

involve everyone

and to be flexible.

The GE of the future

will be based on the cherished values that drive us today,

mutual trust.

Our dream,

our plan,

was simple then

and it is up to you to carry the torch to future greatness.

Strive for self-confidence, Strive to learn and Strive for a better future. (Point to audience) 

Today, you bestowed upon me a title that will forever be close to my heart. As

we conclude this special occasion, a chance to glance back for a moment to see

the progression of GE, I have just six words to say. We’ve come a long way

baby! (Gesture thumbs up)

Thank you. 


4 responses to “Jack Welch’s Acceptance Speech ~ The Boundaryless Behavior of a Company

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  1. Pingback: Reality « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

  2. You could definitely see your expertise within the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

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