Immelt, Kraft CEO tape TV episode
By Kate Farley
Published on Friday, May 4, 2007
General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt '78 and Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld spoke to an audience of mainly Tuck School of Business students at a taping for a television series Thursday evening at the Hopkins Center.
"CEO Exchange," hosted by Jeff Greenfield, is a PBS series that spotlights two chief executives of Fortune 500 companies in each episode. The show, taped in front of live audiences composed primarily of MBA students at top business schools across the country, focuses on each guest's leadership style and management strategy in an interview with a casual, conversational tone.
Immelt and Rosenfeld were first interviewed individually and then spoke together. Though they are heads of companies that make completely different products, they shared similar perspectives on the role of a leader of a large company.
Both agreed that their participation in competitive sports early in their lives gave them skills that they would later use in the business world. Immelt said that his role as captain of the Dartmouth football team and as president of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity helped him to develop his leadership skills.
Immelt and Rosenfeld further agreed that in the evolving marketplace, innovation is key, and that an honest, bottom-line attitude helps facilitate change and a positive corporate culture.
"Honesty about performance -- I think it's a human right. That's something I would tell any student here," Immelt said, gesturing to the audience.
Because all events were being taped for broadcast, the executives didn't engage in open discussion with the audience, but they did answer several questions from pre-selected audience members.
Though their interaction with the CEOs was limited, most audience members were impressed with the guests.
Louisa Roberts Tu'08 and Abe Gurjal Tu'08 both said that Immelt and Rosenfeld were very candid and charismatic.
"The whole thing was funnier than I thought it would be," said Gurjal.
Roberts noted that even though the show is being taped for a large broadcast audience, the candidates were also aware of their live viewers.
"They had a connection with the audience. They knew the audience, knew that they were talking to a younger crowd," she said.
Gurjal was particularly impressed with Immelt's performance.
"He was able to explain complex business ideas in a quick, straightforward manner, which is difficult," Gurjal said.
Currently finishing its fifth season, CEO Exchange airs in a one-hour slot on PBS in the spring and is underwritten by the Society for Human Resource Management. The episode taped on Thursday is scheduled to air on May 30, 2007, with the title "Keeping Up with the Jetsons: Making Lives Better Through Innovation."
Beacon Capital Partners Leadership Speaker Series, the Jonathan L. Cohen D'60, T'61 Leadership Development Program and the First-Year Project sponsored the event. Colin Van Ostern, associate director of the Office of Public Relations at Tuck, and Andrew Smith Tu'07 served as coordinators.