5 Leadership Takeaways from Graduation

5 Leadership Takeaways from Graduation

Some of the world’s most accomplished leaders, like Jack Welch, and previous honorary MBA recipients, David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, and Bill Conaty, former senior vice president of human resources at General Electric and President at Conaty Consulting LLC are featured within JWMI’s top-ranked MBA curriculum.

But at graduation, this experience comes to life for our graduates, their family, and friends in attendance.

At JWMI’s 2019 Commencement and Induction Ceremony held at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, James (Jim) McNerney, Jr., Senior Advisor at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC and Former Chairman & CEO at The Boeing Company sat down for an interview about a wide range of business topics after receiving his honorary MBA from JWMI.

Breaking the norms of typical “advice to graduates” commencement speeches, Jim was interviewed by Suzy Welch, JWMI Co-Founder, noted business journalist, and CNBC contributor. With so much experience shared throughout the interview, it was challenging to narrow down just five leadership takeaways, but the following reinforce Jim’s unique leadership style:


As you grow in your leadership roles, it important to remain sure-footed in who you are and what your values are. The higher up you rise, the more ‘having others’ best interests in mind’ will be noticed. Often a leader falls when their humility turns into hubris when their “team” turns into “me.” The spotlight can draw you in. You receive a good performance review, or maybe three in a row, and soon you are spending more time managing up than managing down. But, the last person to notice that they’re managing up is the person who’s managing up. Everyone else saw it months ago.


Life can get very complicated, but it’s essential to be present, to be in the moment. If you’re at work, be at work. If you’re at school, be at school. If you’re coaching somebody, coach them. If you’re in a meeting, be in the meeting, put down the cell phone, close the laptop, and be present. Multi-tasking is a myth. Don’t let the complexity of your life be anything but jet fuel for your future success and goals.


There are many qualities to look for when hiring someone. You, of course, want them to have book smarts. When looking for cognitive intelligence (IQ), you are looking for a threshold; you want to know they can keep up, and offer something intellectually. But it’s not the essential trait to look for during the hiring process. Business is about personal relationships, which is why emotional intelligence (EQ) and abilities like relating to others, and social communication are critical. When hiring talent, look for all the EQ you can get!


Every company is bound to have a crisis. But how you handle that crisis as a leader will define your role and reputation and how quickly your department or company move beyond the issue. Inspiring confidence is a leader’s job during a crisis. And it’s not easily done. But if you can lead as an empathic person through a crisis, while solving the problem at hand with candor as a manager, you will gain people trust in you and your company when it’s all over.


Sometimes in a leadership role, you need to play the long game, especially when faced with the reality of a lousy boss, depressing corporate culture, or poisonous politics in the workplace. You have to believe in your abilities and that you have the strength to survive the situation, that the people outside of the political environment, or outside of your boss, will see the problem for what it is, and will recognize your value. Choosing to hold firm, electing not to run to your superiors or around your superior takes impressive fortitude. But when the situation is eventually sorted out, and it will sort itself out, you’ll find that having faith in yourself only builds more confidence and could very well be the best decision you ever made.






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