There are times when leaders are faced with an untenable situation. On the one hand, they have to take risks to innovate and to make hard decisions in order to succeed in the current environment.

On the other hand, they have to keep stockholders, boards of directors and government regulators comfortable by not rocking the boat beyond "expectations" -- as apparently "expectations" are the primary currency on Wall Street.

If they do the wrong thing, we tend to scream that they are unethical idiots. If they do the right thing, we charge them with pandering to the press. It might just be that, in some cases, the leaders have the courage not to care what we think but to actually do what they believe to be the right thing regardless.

Take Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric ( GE) as one example. I am a big fan of Immelt's because I appreciate his apparent transparency in decision-making, his willingness to make commitments but not allow his ego to stop him if new commitments need to be made, and his openness to respond to challenges in an honest way. I may be the only columnist who has ever mentioned Immelt's name without mentioning the other guy's name (former CEO? You know the guy), mainly because this is one of his ongoing challenges as well.

Immelt has been criticized most recently for apparently flip-flopping on his commitment to (a) avoid raising new capital and (b) cutting GE dividends. What I think is most impressive is his willingness to essentially say: "These actions are necessary for long-term survival regardless of the flack I'll take over changing my mind."

If you liked this article you might like

These Stocks Pay You to Own Them

GE Is 'One of the Toughest Stocks I've Ever Had to Deal With,' Jim Cramer Says

GE Axes Fleet of Corporate Jets to Save Money Amid Sales Slump

GE's Toxic Price Action Has Legs -- Next Shoe to Drop

Trian Said to be Close to Acquiring Seat on GE's Board