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At Dreamforce: Immelt and Powell on leadership

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San Francisco—General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell shared their insights on leadership Thursday during a keynote session at Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference here. Immelt and Powell covered a wide range of topics—energy independence, the environment, turmoil in the Middle East—in a Q&A session moderated by Salesforce.com Chairman-CEO Marc Benioff. But the over-arching theme of the end-of-the-day session was leadership. Immelt said effective leadership is based on three core principles: openness, authenticity and unity. He described openness as being "both of character and spirit." Of authenticity, he said: "People don't want to work for a phony. They want to be mission-based." As for unity, Immelt noted the emphasis GE places on teamwork. "People want to be on teams," he said. "It's always been that way." Powell said that in organizations that are "high-performing and believe in themselves," people are self-motivated. "I no longer use the word 'motivate,' I say 'inspire,' " Powell said of his leadership philosophy. Leaders who don't provide such inspiration and who fail to foster self-motivation among their employees can pay a steep price. "They'll undercut you every day, and you'll turn your head and it will fall off," Powell quipped. As technology continues to evolve, Powell said, it's important to remember a key fact: "Human beings are the most important part of the organization."
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