I sort of liked the guy and certainly felt he knew how to connect with people. He was a tall person and had a security personel on the front and back. I guess being a head of a 170 billion$ company requires you to have some security stuff going on. The first year MBAs have a 2 day charity event Wednesday and Thursday, where we build a house or do something similar. Traditionally, every year, Jeff Immelt's talk would be on the Thursday evening after we'd completed all the hard work. But in his own words "my daughter's joining college on Thursday, I have to accompany her and so I changed the dates. In life you must understand your priorities". So there you go he connected with people right away.
Listening to him talk was a good experience. He told us the value of a business school degree and asked us not to ignore "boring" courses like HR courses. His main stress was on doing menial work. With many examples from real life, he explained how he did work that was not something an MBA would do, and at the same time never thought "I am a Harvard MBA. This is below my dignity". What I understood from his speech was that no job is below anybody's dignity ( I have not come to terms with this yet). He also took us through his first week as CEO ( 3 days after he became CEO -- 9/11 happened). And in the concluding phases of his speech, he let us know his thoughts on leadership. I think he said, (1) great leaders develop other leaders (2) leaders are good listeners who can separate the chatter and focus on that 1 good idea, (3) leaders are good people-persons, and (4) leaders pay and take risks to earn their ambitions.
Finally he fielded questions on his relationship with Jack Welsch, his most challenging decision (which was to shut down an appliances plant) and his globalization philosophy. One thing is becoming clear to me in the first week at an American Business school. Globalization is a big thing. India is now on everybody's radar. Jeff Immelt is a big pro-globalization guy. He openly said "we have to close plants here and layoff people to open new ones in China and India". I heard the word India being uttered at least 50 times by Jeff Immelt in his speech in various contexts. I heard India being uttered 10,000 times in the last 1 week by various professors. Gave me goose pimples ( and I am not even that kind of extreme flag waving patriotic, so imagine how it must have been for the every time i open my mouth I'll say "mera bharat mahaan" dudes). India is certainly slated to be a superpower by 2050 barring any big catastrophe. China is much ahead of India in projections and any other predictions. It is seen as a much bigger investment potential than India. The pie charts and maps constantly show China as overtaking the US and India as overtaking Germany in the future. I have always been skeptical about India's place in the world's economic future. This last 1 week has told me one thing, the people who matter think India has arrived.