On Tuesday, European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager approved General Electric’s (GE) largest acquisition ever: a deal to buy the power-generation assets of French conglomerate Alstom for $13.5 billion.
The green light follows more than a year of intense lobbying and concessions, and clears the way for a purchase that will fortify GE’s transformation back to its industrial roots. GE’s makeover, which includes the sales of its vast finance assets, has come to define the tenure of chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, who took over from Jack Welch in 200.
Immelt figured early on that to succeed, he had to lead very differently than his legendary predecessor. “I never really wanted to be him,” Immelt said about Welch in an interview with Fortune in May. Noting that Fortune christened Welch “the manager of the century” in 1999, Immelt said, “I love him. I respected him. But I never wanted to do the job that way.”
Fortune spoke with Immelt for Fortune.com’s interview show, The Chat, at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. “One piece of advice I can give you is: Follow a jerk because that’s easier,” said the GE boss. “If you follow someone good, you have to drive change everyday while pretending that nothing was ever wrong.”