In 1963, Jack Welch accidentally blew up a factory at GE — and it taught him a lesson about leadership that’s stuck with him to this day

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  • Jack Welch is the former CEO and chairman of General Electric.
  • Early on in his career there, he was a chemical engineer, and he accidentally blew up a factory.
  • When Welch met with a manager to discuss the situation, the manager coached him through the mistake and what he could have done differently.
  • In the years that followed, Welch treated his own employees the same way.

The first time Jack Welch met his boss’ boss’ boss, it wasn’t to talk about promotion opportunities or about anything impressive he’d done.

It was 1963, and Welch was a chemical engineer at General Electric, the company where he’d eventually become CEO and chairman.

The issue at hand? Welch had inadvertently blown up a factory. Fortunately, no one was killed.

Welch recounted the experience and what it taught him in an interview with Stephen Dubner on the Freakonomics podcast.

After the…

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