If one person is to blame for shareholder capitalism, it’s not Jack Welch, it’s Milton Friedman.
I haven’t read the book “The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America — and How to Undo His Legacy”, I have only read some reviews. My tsundoku is full of more important books.
I can reflect on what I know of Welch. To me, he is the consummate manager of the shareholder capitalist era. He was the servant of the owners. His job was to deliver greater wealth and he did it with ruthless effectiveness, even brilliance.
The fact that he later repudiated Friedmanism shows that he wasn’t acting according to his beliefs, only according to his instructions. And delivered. The perfect manager.
Welch is an icon of everything the Open movement (as I label it) seek to change in management. He didn’t cause Friedmanism, but he represented and modelled it for millions of other managers. He stands for
– Value over values. Owner wealth over people and society. Ignoring beauty and goodness.
– Ethical detachment. Don’t bring yourself to work. Welcome to the Machine. Get the job done.
– Sociopathic staff relations. Humans as resources, capital stock.
– The organisation as an island. Externalities are somebody else’s problem.
– Obsessive focus over holistic thinking. It’s easier to chase one number than balance a scorecard.
In short, what an arsehole. Like Jobs, Gates-then-Ballmer, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Musk, and most of our current heroes, he shows that nice guys don’t come first in corporate capitalism.