How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Senior exec at GE steps down

March 18, 2013: 12:08 PM ET

First Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg told us to Lean In.

Now New York Magazine—on its cover this week—tells us about "leaning back."

In the spirit of the latter, General Electric (GE) announced this morning that Charlene Begley, once viewed as the company's youngest rising star, is stepping down from her two big jobs: Chief Information Officer and head of the $8 billion Home and Business Solutions unit.

Begley, 45, is taking a leave of absence for health reasons. The company says that she intends to return, but in a TBD position.

Begley's leave follows her little-known departure from GE in in 2009. At that time, she left GE for several months to deal with health problems but continued to do some work remotely while she recovered. This time around, Begley decided to take a more aggressive course, giving up her job and helping GE CEO Jeff Immelt install her replacements.

Chip Blankenship, who has been reporting to Begley as head of GE's appliance business, is taking charge of Home and Business Solutions. Replacing Begley as CIO is Jamie Miller, promoted to SVP. Miller's previous job was vice president, controller and chief accounting officer.

Before the world ever focused on young stars like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, now CEO of Yahoo (YHOO), Begley was one of the youngest execs on on Fortune's annual Most Powerful Women List. When she was named VP and then SVP at GE, she was the youngest executive, male or female, that the company had ever appointed. She ranked No. 29 on Fortune's MPW list last year.

And on this topic of leaning back, another once-powerful woman, former Lehman Brothers (BCS) CFO Erin Callan, talked with NBC's Ann Curry Friday night on NBC's Rock Center. You can view the clip here.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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