Jack Welch and My Mom – two E’s for Leadership


Is it purely a metaphor when we say someone is “beaming?” Or is there something there – something real – even if we don’t have the tools to measure it? I ask this question, because my mom — stunned to see a room full of people secretly assembled to celebrate her 80th birthday — had her high beams on! Oh, the energy expressed across her wisened face was real. Energy that could light a room – with arguably a much more important kind of light than that measured by lumens. An energy belonging to the same type as the feeling that spreads through a theater when Meryl Streep delivers a decisive line of independence; or the look of love of a mom as her nine-month-old takes his first few steps on his own; or the electricity sure to be in the air when the Lions finally win a Thanksgiving Day game.

Leadership is about our connection in such human systems. And leadership is about that kind of energy. Mom’s beaming was fueled by the stored energy of our love for her. In the extraordinary eco-system of a highly functional family, the energy we generated for my mom was largely produced by… you guessed it… mom’s investment of energy into all of us over so many years.

Is this motivational mush?  Hard-nosed Jack Welch would say absolutely not. In Welch’s famous 4 E’s of leadership, the first is the positive energy of the leader herself or himself.* The great ones are continually positive, driving forward, boundless. And the second E in Welch’s scheme is they energize others. Welch was huge on finding people who had that special quality, where they were actors and not reactors, where people wanted to work with them because they loved challenge and change. My mom, deeply steeped in the Catholic tradition of gratitude and giving, has been a wonderful albeit much quieter example of a tireless, pay-it-forward, move ahead leader. Who wouldn’t want to “work for” her?

So, are your high beams on today? Do you perhaps need to open up your receptors to take in the energy of others who want to contribute to you?  In turn, are you ready to pour energy into others – jump-start their tired holiday batteries, even when you don’t know whether those batteries will store the charge, or whether they’ll fully utilize the energy you’re pouring forth?

If you’re looking for more energizing thoughts, might I invite you on Cyber Monday to pick up my new book Be Real: Inspiring Stories for Leading at Home and Work; chapter four is on emotion and motion and chapter eight is on challenge.  I hope it might help you to:

Lead with your best self!


* Jeffrey Krames writes about Welch’s philosophy in

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  • Good morning Dan,

    Leadership does start at home. Our parents are our first teachers, and what they instill in us does affect our ability to be leaders or followers. in 1998, I remember when my family gave my grandmother a surprise 80th birthday party and she lit up very bright; In turn the family and her friends had their beams on as well. I know the reason why I was a successful cell block officer for many years and why I am a leader in my community, it is because I was taught to have confidence in myself, the value of having an education, I was taught to respect others, I was taught to treat women with respect, and most importantly, I was taught who is the greatest leader of all.

    I will definitely have my high beams on not only when I see the Detroit Lions when a Thanksgiving game but when they become a .500 team also!

    God bless you,

    Thomas K. Burke – Mentor

    • Thomas,
      Thanks for continuing to share with us.
      I’d love to hear more about leadership, learned in your experience on the cell block. That seems like an extraordinary social world. I wonder what were the biggest lessons you learned there. When you say you were “successful,” what does that mean? What does a successful leader do on a prison unit? What are the effects that occur when you lead well?
      Seems America is faced with a monstrous problem when it comes to the costs we pay to imprison people. If we could figure out how to rehabilitate that would surely be great. Was rehabilitation part of the equation? Or was it simply about safety and maintenance?

  • Regarding powerful leadership emotions, Albert Einstein once said, “We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve.” For example, the leadership lights are dimly lit by the Wolverines here in intellectual Ann Arbor, while they are shining on high beam at that emotional univeristy up in Lansing.

    Here is what they are saying in Ann Arbor about shopping on Cyber Monday: http://www.sobabyboomer.com/2010/11/shop-globally-buy-locally.html

    I highly recommend picking up a copy of “Be Real.” It’s a wonderful authentic leadership read.

  • I am now convinced that beaming is the cure for what ails our great nation! It happens I recently observed first hand when we care enough to give others in our community the recognition they so richly deserve. Beaming is the one true agent of healing divisions amongst us, cost effective and at the same time provides a healthy role model that most everyone gets the first time around and strikes into your inner core of lasting memory.

    For me it started over a year ago. I began to research the heroic efforts of a living 90 year old Jackson, Michigan man. His name is Homer Wheeler, and he managed to survive D-day June 6, 1944 at a place called Omaha Beach, he went battle after battle straight to Berlin, Germany. The problem was that no one cared enough to say thank you. Homer Wheeler was never awarded his medals and his service to our nation was all but forgotten.

    Then on November 1, 2010 a mass “Beaming,” happened that struck into the hearts or a wide ranging audience held inside the Jackson Area Career Center. All sorts of seemingly disconnected people, young people, professional men and women, retired folks, ordinary citizens, the press and our public leaders in politics and the military – all beamed!

    For a brief time, everyone said thank you to Homer Wheeler for his efforts to help save the country in one of its darkest hours of history. In the process, we were completely shocked by the sense of how much we mean to each other and how our lives are actually connected.

    Mr. Wheeler was read a proclamation from the President of the United States. Our 7th MI District Congressman Mark Schauer knelt close toward Mr. Wheeler and read every word of a special proclamation of appreciation from the US Congress. All of his medals were given to him and he was the center of our attention. It was a magic moment – we all beamed together.

    I watched the measured reactions all around and the tears of joy and caring and saying thank you. One person after another shook his hand and told him thank you. Mr. Wheeler warmly thanked everyone and his eyes were beaming bright and his posture tall. It turns out his beaming made us all beam. Simply put, when we care enough to give thanks and appreciate the sacrifices made on our behalf we end up healing ourselves and beaming in the process.

    Below is a link that details Mr. Homer Wheeler’s medals event:


  • I’m sure others who visit this site have noticed how close Veterans Day and Thankgiving are on the calendar. I know I’m not alone in making it a point to thank veterans (or active service personnel) on Veterans Day, and I’m glad that private citizens and media alike continue to recognize our veterans on Thanksgiving. Even if they didn’t serve during wartime, our veterans frequently served years away from their families to keep us all safe. As was pointed out during a recent radio story, some boys and girls who were 11 or 12 years old when their mom or dad left for Afghanistan or Iraq are now finishing high school, or are even in college, and for some of them, their parent remains absent still. Time goes by quickly, and I’m glad that the good folks of Jackson were able to recognize Homer Wheeler for his service.

  • Good evening Dan,

    Safety and maintenance was always an intregal part of my job. I had contiuously stressed the importance of why it is important to follow the rules no matter how petty they appeared to be. It was my job to follow the rules and I consistently applied the rules to everyone; The prisoners saw this and accepted this knowing that in my unit the rules applied to everyone. I was successful with communicating with the prisoners. I talked with the prisoners, not at them or judging them. When a prisoner first arived in my unit I would tell them to respect me, all other staff, other prisoners themselves and the rules. I practiced what I preached to the prisoners. If a prisoner confronted me telling me I disrespected them in some way, If I recognized my mistake I would apologize to that prisoner. Each housing unit have prisoner workers or “Porters”. They are responsible for keeping the cell block clean. When I hired new porters, I would give them a copy of their job description., and have a senior porter train the new porter. If the new porter did not meet the expectations of their assignment after 72 hours on the job, I would demonstrtate how the job should be done; If the prisoner continued to be neglegent after a total of about 1 week, I would replace him. over time, I had recieved numerous positive block reports from my immediate supervisors. I kept a clean, quite cell block and ran my unit with the least amount of problems and the least amount of misconduct reports. In 2004 I started asking the institutional Chaplain to provide me with Bibles, Qarans, which I would keep in my staff locker for prisoners who wanted to study scripture if he had not been able to recieve one at a religious consultation. For the prisoners who had a Bible, I would give them a verse a day to read and explain to them my interpretation of that verse. I had a large following of prisoners not just from my unit but all over the facility who wanted me to help them understand the Bible or ask me for advice. When an ex- prisoner would see me in public, he would remind me what I taught him and say it has helped him and his family. In 2007, I was the facilities (RGC) Officer of the year, representing the facility state wide and also selcted to be the facilities acting Chaplain, which I worked as the institutional Chaplain and a cell block officer. Enforcing and following the rules, showing the prisoners they can be better men, treating everyone with respect and dignity, mentoring new officers, earned me a very respectable reputation with officers I worked with and the prisoners I was responsible for under my watch, and my supervisors trusted and respected my work ethics.

    Thomas K. Burke-Mentor

  • Dan,
    ‘I’ve missed your emails over a year of being bedridden and confused with a medical team about why the result of dual knee replacement has been so difficult. At long last I connected with a dynamic physician, Dr. Ann Little MD at UofM hospital, who energizes every space she occupies. She led the team the identified the illness, set the medication program, and defined the treatment plan…and she got me home again with Ami and the kids. Dr. Ann, along with all the support and prayers from our church and the girls’ schools, keep the high beams focused. The energy resides in the One, flows through the many, and changes everything.

  • Mike,
    It’s so great to hear from you again. Didn’t know you were hurting, but very happy that you’re up and home and beaming some!
    How are your eyes???

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