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Jack: Straight from the Gut Paperback – October 1, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 320 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's hard to think of a CEO that commands as much respect as Jack Welch. Under his leadership, General Electric reinvented itself several times over by integrating new and innovative practices into its many lines of business. In Jack: Straight from the Gut, Welch, with the help of Business Week journalist John Byrne, recounts his career and the style of management that helped to make GE one of the most successful companies of the last century. Beginning with Welch's childhood in Salem, Massachusetts, the book quickly progresses from his first job in GE's plastics division to his ambitious rise up the GE corporate ladder, which culminated in 1981. What comes across most in this autobiography is Welch's passion for business as well as his remarkable directness and intolerance of what he calls "superficial congeniality"--a dislike that would help earn him the nickname "Neutron Jack." In spite of its 496 pages, Jack: Straight from the Gut is a quick read that any student or manager would do well to consider. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

It doesn't matter whether you love or hate Jack Welch. Who can resist hearing the man tell his story? This abridged version of his recently published autobiography, featuring Welch himself, is quite entertaining. With his slightly raspy Boston accent, Welch discusses his childhood and his career. When he proclaims something, he gives examples to illustrate his point. For instance, he says his mother was the strongest influence on his life. He then recalls the time he threw a hockey stick across the ice in disgust after losing a game, and his mother stormed into the locker room as some teammates were changing to exclaim loudly, "If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win." When discussing his long career at GE, Welch is equally detailed. While some listeners unfamiliar with the corporation may find some of the discussions tedious, most will be captivated by what appears to be Welch's brutal honesty. He talks about having to lobby for promotions because he didn't "fit the GE mold," and he's open about making some poor business decisions. He's not as forthright as it appears, though. He talks about his beloved wife, Carolyn, who provided a stable home while Welch was rising in GE's ranks, but barely mentions their divorce. Still, this audiobook will be interesting listening for anyone who has followed Neutron Jack's career. Simultaneous release with Warner Books hardcover.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446690686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446690683
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you want to learn the names of every person who ever worked at GE during Jack Welch's 40 years there, you'll find this book invaluable. If you want to learn something about what made GE successful, however, good luck picking out the few saplings of wisdom from the thick forest of names.
Golf and tennis fans will also find the book fascinating for its endless catalog of golf and tennis resorts nationwide. Apparently being anywhere near the top at GE requires moving to Fairfield, Connecticut and aping the Lifestyles of the Bland and WASPy.
One interesting thing I learned is that GE went from 0 percent employee ownership to 31 percent during Jack Welch's tenure as CEO, primarily through granting of stock options to top managers such as Jack himself. Jack doesn't talk about this except to say that he's proud of the number. He doesn't get into the question of whether the investors from 1980 are happy now that they own less than 70 percent of the company. Nor does he talk about what would have happened to GE's earnings if they'd accounted for all of these stock options at time of issue.
The useful and interesting content in this book could have been presented in 75 pages if the editors and ghostwriter had been doing their jobs. But they weren't doing their jobs. So the readers all have to "give 110 percent" or "give 1000 percent". Maybe this is what Jack Welch wanted because he uses these expressions numerous times throughout Straight from the Gut.
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Format: Hardcover
REVIEW: If one word could sum up Jack Welch's career at GE it might be "results". And this is why many people will want to read this book. It is basically an autobiography of Jack Welch's GE years and does not dwell on deap management theory. Those readers expecting a lot of new business theory or to learn how to repeat Jack's performance by reading about his secret methodology may be disappointed.
The management insights that Jack does reveal seem to me to be generally built on fairly well established (but poorly executed) management practices. Jack has just embraced them and used focussed passion coupled with an obsession on people to execute superbly and produce great results. For example, some of his major initiatives could be said to have been derived from existing management principles: 1) "No. 1 or 2" Jack admits is derived from Peter Drucker, 2)I believe six sigma is derived in part from Motorola, 3) "Boundaryless behaviour" can said to be based on Peter Drucker's observation that there are no profit centers inside an organization, and 4) Jack was clearly not an early pioneer on "E-business". Yet he recognized the opportunities and produced results from them. The book probably won't become a classic, but it is still recommended reading for today's and tomorrow's managers and especially those interest in the man himself.
STRENGTHS: The book is a fairly easy and interesting read full of anecdotes and insites. It does a great job of showing the management task as art and discipline that can be learned, improved, and mastered rather than as personal charisma or other common stereotypes of leadership.
WEAKNESSES: The minor weaknesses of the book relate to Jack's strong, competitive personality (and maybe ego) that show through in his writing.
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By A Customer on September 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There's something a tad creepy about Jack Welch. Behind the tight smile is a man who, admittedly, is "full of himself." That's his blessing and curse. If you believe that building business empires is the sole aim of life, and it's worth sacrificing a marriage for, Welch is probably worth this saintliness being bestowed on him. But if you believe there is more to our existence than work and golf, this book is not for you.
There's some business wisdom in the book, but one must slog through a lot to get it.
Welch reminds me very much of the Frederic March character in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (based on Sloan Wilson's novel). Yes, he built a great business, but realized too late that he had lost much more than he had gained. This was a common profile in the post World War II American economy. Welch fits it to a T (or a W). And while his devotion to his mother's memory and teachings is touching, Freud would have had a field day with this book.
The book is not horrible by any means. But I could have done without the golf stuff. There are about half a dozen photos of Jack golfing in one place or another (including with that great American, Bill Clinton). It all comes off like a twenty-year-old's showing off (he has reproduced a score card from a golf round with Greg Norman!) than the reflections of a mature business leader.
There's a touch of this throughout, such as when he divorces wife #1, and suddenly observes: "Being single and having money was like standing six feet four with a full head of hair." As Chris Farley might have said when he played the motivational speaker: "Well Lah-De-Freakin'-Dah!"
I can see a whole new generation of baby MBA's lugging this book around like the Bible.
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Format: Hardcover
I read 'Jack' in hardcover a couple of weeks after it came out, and found it easy reading...not a lot of meaty stuff though. Frankly, there are other books that cover the business of the Welch Style of Management better than Jack Welch (see, for instance, anything by Noel Tichy). Welch's track record at GE - validated by the market via the company's rise in market valuation during his tenure- speaks for itself.
Two things that did stick in my mind from the book were his brief mention and dismissal of his first wife (he barely notes her existence up until the point where he - essentially - discards her) and his summation of his second wife, Jane: "She has become the perfect partner."
As it turns out, I read this in the pre-Suzy Wetlaufer era. And like many readers, I feel like I got Jack-ed, because 'perfect partner' Jane ends up getting the 'first wife treatment' as well. And frankly, that 'perfect partner' line really sticks in my craw now. I wonder: just how much more of 'Jack' is some misdirection woven by its author?
To get the real story on Welch and his relationships, you need to turn to sources like the Wall Street Journal. Their excellent reporter James Bander broke the whole Harvard Business Review 'Jack on Jack' interview mess. And the Journal's compelling story about the Welch domestic battle "GE's Jack Welch Meets Match in Divorce Court" (see Nov. 27, 2002 edition) makes for outstanding reading.
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