One of my greatest mentors and advocates, Jack Welch, passed away this week. Like all of us, his life had some complexity, and like anyone who holds positions of power, his legacy holds some complexity too.
Here is what I know.
When I was a 24 year old industrial analyst, and my friend Jennifer and I were often the only women in the room, he took us seriously.
When I got pushed out of the way (actually pushed) at a big business dinner, he noticed. The next year, there was assigned seating, with the push-er way at the end of the table, and me right across from Jack.
He told my colleagues that I knew the company better than anyone, and that they should pay attention to my work.
He wrote thank you notes – not just to me, but to hundreds, thousands, of people.
He asked about my family, and my life.
He sent congratulations when my book was published, even though we’d been out of touch by then and he likely disagreed with everything in it.
Dear friends, if we are lucky we will have lives full of meaning and love. For sure, we will all also have some complications, and some might be doozies. But we can all choose to give a young newcomer a chance. We can all write the thank-you note.
I have read a lot of remembrances of Jack this week, which include a lot of critique – some fair, some less so.
For me, he will always be the one who listened, and answered my endless questions.
He will always be the one who moved the mean guy to the end of the table, so that I could have a better seat.