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GE leadership development 'going back to basics'

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GE is going “back to basics” when it comes to leadership development, its VP of executive development and chief learning officer Raghu Krishnamoorthy said yesterday.

Speaking to HR magazine at The Economist Talent Management Summit: New Model Leaders, Krishnamoorthy said GE was concentrating more on “mindsets” than skills, and looking to develop “the raw diamonds” in its workforce.

“It might not be the person with the cognitive skills or the [qualifications],” he said. “It’s more about the hunger to win, the deep sense of accountability and the ability to learn constantly. We are changing the basics of what we look for. It’s a lot more raw and goes back to formulative experiences rather than cognitive ones.”

He added that the business world today needs a new type of leader who can deal with the velocity of change.

“The leader of old used to compete to win, the leader of the new collaborates to win,” he told HR. “The leader of old fitted in; the leader of new values diversity. The leader of old used command and control [management styles]; the leader of new connects and inspires.”

To embed this thinking at GE, the company is tackling it on three levels: new tools, new culture and new “leadership muscle”.

New tools include GE’s ‘Fastworks’ system, which aims to introduce lean start-up principles into the multinational organisation, helping it to respond quicker to consumer demands and market changes. 

This “putting a small company body into a big company” requires a refreshed culture, Krishnamoorthy explained, and a new type of leader. “It’s a new set of beliefs that embrace responsiveness and raise the fact you need to delegate to the fringes of the organisation,” he said.

To develop the kind of leader required, GE is focusing more on experiential learning. Recent immersive experiences include taking top leaders to Normandy to speak to war veterans.

“L&D used to be a privilege; now it’s a necessity,” he said. “Learning is not just a classroom experience - it’s available to you all the time, anywhere. We are continuing to focus on skill building but also have to factor in things like how do you teach people courage, trust and empowerment.”