When a former leader of GE spoke at a New York City forum late last year, recent media discussions about the decline of the industrial giant and his shortcomings at the helm were of little concern.

Executive Summary

Jeff Immelt, the former chair and CEO of GE, provided his thoughts on the makings of a leader who can take charge during uncertain times. Having started his GE tenure days after 9/11 and facing four other tail-risk events in rapid succession, Immelt believes that leaders facing similar turbulence need to have a point of view that guides them instinctively and to learn to see horizontal patterns of disruption. They also need to take action, he says, noting the ability to take a punch goes hand-in-hand with execution and action.

In fact, Jeff Immelt admonished hundreds of senior executives in attendance from the Lincoln Center stage at the World Business Forum: “Don’t read things…When you are the story, you don’t have to read the story.”

Less than a month later, Immelt’s tenure as CEO would be detailed in an informative Wall Street Journal feature recounting the history of GE, “GE Powered The American Century ; Then It Burned Out,” and a Bloomberg news story, “Investors Are Sick of Waiting for GE’s Desperately Needed Reboot,” among other press reports. But even if he became aware of the acclaimed WSJ article, his words at the Forum suggest that he has learned to move forward at peace with his accomplishments and unruffled by detractors.

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