Q&A with Fred and Jack

Fred “the Shred” Goodwin of Royal Bank of Scotland fame held regular management Q&A sessions.  Before the meetings RBS managers had their questions vetted so that nobody asked anything foolish.  Allegedly, even after that, Fred would point out that it was “a stupid question” then tear the questioner apart

“Neutron” Jack Welch of General Electric fame also held regular management Q&A sessions.  He conducted them standing in “The Pit”, a lecture theatre where he would stare up at his audience.  Allegedly, when he was asked questions, Jack would accuse his questioners of “smoking dope” and swear at them

So far so similar

I have never witnessed either of the Fred or Jack shows, both are shrouded in legend, but I have heard from those who have that:

  • Fred would belittle his questioners, make them feel small and intimidate them
  • Jack would engage his questioners, listen to them and offer candid answers
  • Fred attacked the questioner
  • Jack attacked the question
  • Fred expected blind obedience
  • Jack expected dialogue
  • Fred exerted his dominance
  • Jack exerted his influence
  • Fred scared his employees
  • Jack engaged his employees

When Jack asked for another question he got one.  Fred on the other hand didn’t

All of which leads to a couple of questions from me:

  1. Do you know what your management style is?
  2. How do your employees show up at your Q&A sessions?

Maybe the answer to one will inform the other

Fred the Shred

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Image by spaceamoeba


  1. Hello James

    Thanks for sharing this I did not know about the management styles of Fred Goodwin nor Jack Welch. Fom what you have shared neither of them appears (to me) to be the type of character I’d wish to work for or partner with. Both show a fundamental disregard for human dignity. Fear and the fear of ridicule is not a great way to unleash enthusiasm, creativity and risk taking. ANd everything that has ever been created fresh has involved those three qualities.

    If I had to choose then I suspect that I’d prefer to work for/with Jack Welch.


  2. Hi James,
    I didn’t know much about Fred and Jack’s internal style but have heard and read much about the two of them. It seems to me that they don’t believe in the idea that ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’. Given that, what their behaviour suggests is that they are not very tuned into different perspectives or asymmetry of information and that their perspective is the only one that matters. I believe taking this approach and really helping people understand that you are interested in them and their opinions is where real trust, connection, dialogue and the seeds of innovation will start.

    Not sure I’d like to work for either of them.


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