Amy Speranza develops the future leaders of GE. In her current role, she leads the curriculum strategy for GE's Career Accelerator programs for high potential employees.This includes the design and delivery of training to develop both core and functional capabilities for 800+ full time program participants. Program participants represent all GE businesses and are located throughout the world.
Amy has been a leader for GE's L&D initiatives for nearly a decade. Prior to GE, Amy pioneered leadership development programs at Morgan Stanley and March, Inc. We recently sat down with Amy to ask her five questions:
Q: What was your first job?
AS: I was 12 or 13, and we had a pick your own strawberry farm down the street from my house (in North Haven, Connecticut). I would walk there and help run the farm for six weeks in the summer. It was sort of fun, but it would get really hot standing out on that dusty field. I would sometimes take strawberries home after. It was a pretty basic job, but I wanted to have some spending money. My dad taught us early on to have a good work ethic. So I’ve always worked since I was that age.
My next job was probably babysitting, which I was terrible at. Then I worked at a diner. I had a lot of different jobs growing up.
Q: What qualities do you look for in potential leaders?
AS: Self-awareness. Someone who is acutely aware of the strengths they have and the development areas they have. That plays into the second idea of someone who’s humble. Arrogance, ego—there’s a benefit to having a bit of that, a confidence. But there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. I find that the leaders I gravitate towards are ones who are humble. They never let their position—whatever it may be—get ahead of themselves. They always remember they’re still people.
I would say empathy too. Assuming they have the skills to do their leadership role—whether it’s engineering, finance—humility and empathy are key.
I think leaders should also be able to set a vision and communicate that to their team to help people understand the value that they’re adding—not only to the team—but more broadly to the larger organization. They should help their people understand their purpose.
Q: Who was your best manager, and what made them so great?
AS: My current manager. She is an expert in our field, so she is the best learning strategist and leader that I’ve ever worked for. I’ve worked with really great coaches who understand how to coach really well. I’ve also worked for great client relationship learning folks.
My current manager has it all. So I respect her skill in the area. It’s worked so well over the past four years or so because she’s extremely supportive—I know she has my back, and she gives me the autonomy I deserve. She’ll step in if she’s needed and if I ask, but otherwise I’m doing my own thing and she’s not micromanaging anything that I do. So I know she trusts me and I feel that trust.
She also has a process where every year, we’ll talk about just about my career and what I want to do. She puts it on my calendar, which I love. She also has the performance development conversations, and asks me every quarter about my priorities. That’s something that’s expected at GE—that performance development process, but she’s especially thoughtful about my career and my development, and she drives that.
Q: How do you think the future of leadership development will change at your organization?
AS: I think the foundation of what we do is strong and we’ll continue to invest in developing our talent, especially high-potential talent. I think that’s why GE stands out and why I’m so happy to work there. Every other company I’ve worked at would say talent development is important, but actions speak louder than words. At GE, we continue to invest in leadership development and programs such as our XLP (accelerated leadership program). Our managers also give our employees opportunities to take time away from their day jobs to attend trainings and enter these leadership programs.
Q: What’s one thing you wished you learned before you started your career?
AS: It’s something I’m trying to teach my kids over and over and again: perspective. Early in my career I thought every constructive or negative feedback was the end of the world. If a meeting didn’t go well, it would haunt me for weeks. I wish had perspective then to understand that what I do has value to people’s lives, but if I make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world, and tomorrow’s going to be okay.
To hear more from Amy Speranza about cultivating future-ready leaders, sign up for our upcoming webinar, “The Best Boss I Ever Had: Investing in Great Managers,” and learn more about how General Electric develops its future leaders in our case study.