ITC’s Hold on Powerful Leadership
Joseph L. Welch, ITC CEO, reveals secrets exclusively to MeetTheBoss.tv
By: John Funnell
Apr. 28, 2010 03:59 PM
Currently the Midwest's leading electric transmission company, ITC Holdings serves an area of nearly 80,000 square miles in five states. According to the statistics, the company's service area has a population of more than 13 million people and the firm operates approximately 15,000 circuit miles of overhead and underground transmission lines, carrying more than 25,000 megawatts (or 25 billion watts) of electric power. In other words, ITC Holdings knows a thing or two about energy.
And none more so, it seems, than Joseph L. Welch, the company's CEO, who reveals exclusively to MeetTheBoss.tv his passion for the energy industry. Beginning his career in 1971 at Detroit Edison, Welch made a bold and impressive move in 2003 when, along with just 38 others, he parted ways with Detroit and started ITC Holdings.
Speaking from ITC Holdings' new headquarters in Novi, Michigan, Welch explains to Adam Burns, Editor-in-Chief at MeetTheBoss.tv, his vision of the utility system in the US and how this led him to start-up ITC. He also details how being named as one of Ernst & Young's US Entrepreneurs of the Year back in 2007, just two years after the company went public and Welch himself proudly rang the New York Stock Exchange bell, was a "humbling" experience.
"I said it then and I say it today," he explains, "I got the award but the people who worked in the company, they deserve the award. The fact is that you can set the vision and you can set the tone, but it really does take a true team to have those kinds of successes in that amount of time."
Speaking specifically about the state of the US utility system, Welch defines it as the "Achilles' heel of the 21 Century". He tells Adam, "I don't think the utility business is hallmarked by people of passion. I think it's hallmarked by people of ‘this is the way it is'. Everything is viewed as truly evolutionary. If you were to measure this as a one mile run, the people in the utility business look at one millimeter a year as being success. We need to make a change there."
Welch is also a revered and well-respected business leader. At a time when he knew making a difference was imperative, he managed to persuade 38 people to leave their jobs and join him at ITC. That was 39 years ago, and Welch believes he still has around 30 of those people with him: which certainly goes a long way to defining the skill of his leadership style.
It hasn't always been an easy ride though. He hasn't always been steeped in praise. At one point Welch explains, "When I worked at another company I was told I didn't have any leadership capability. That was a key moment in my life. That's when I thought my career wasn't going anywhere."
Of course, when Adam later asks Welch if he knew this presumption of his leadership ability was wrong, he simply responds: "Yeah."
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