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Elumelu Pays Tribute To Jack Welch, Says I Regard Him As The High Priest Of Corporate Leadership

Jack Welch

Today as the world bids its final goodbye to Jack Welch, I am emotional and reflective, yet thankful and filled with great respect for this great man. Jack not only built General Electric (GE) into the corporate mammoth it is today, his influence transcended one company, as he largely influenced corporate leadership and decision making in business.

He transformed mindsets, pioneered new methods of talent management and ultimately sharpened the business mentality of leaders in the private sector – not only those in America but across the world.

Jack’s influence in my own career is extensive. From thousands of miles away, he taught me many of my most treasured lessons in leadership. These lessons from Jack which I gleaned through his books helped me navigate the most sensitive role of my career so far, sitting at the helms of one of Nigeria’s largest banks post the STB-UBA merger, which remains one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest financial mergers till date.

At only 42 years old, I had to oversee the merger of two very complex institutions with corporate cultures that were sometimes at odds, and thousands of employees on both sides whose futures now depended on my immediate decisions. There was no handbook, no guidelines, no notes or templates which I could rely on because a merger of such scale was rare in our part of the world.

But I had Jack’s history of what he did at GE as a companion.

I recall one episode which I will share out of so many…

Shortly after the merger of Standard Trust Bank (STB) and UBA, I ordered 500 copies of his book “Winning” and distributed it amongst the 428 branches of the new UBA. Each branch was to read and deeply seminar on the book and share its top 3 leadership lessons for adoption by the entire bank. It was a compulsory exercise with strict deadlines enforced.

I personally read all 1,284 submissions. I highlighted the most brilliant entries and shortly afterwards we adopted these as we implemented our growth strategy. The result is that we were able to take UBA from a NIGERIAN bank to a PAN AFRICAN bank now with a presence in 20 African countries and the global financial capitals of New York, Paris and London. Today, UBA is the only sub-Saharan African bank with deposit taking capacity in the United States for America.

If Jack had this effect on me from so far away, imagine the lives he touched everywhere. May his books and memory continue to inspire us all to live the fullest lives we can. May his soul Rest In Peace.

I am compiling my own story to influence others too…


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