Lessons to learn from some of the great business leaders of our time
Recently, I enjoyed reading several biographies that gave me inspiration and ideas for how to process and proceed in our current economic and social environments. The three biographies describe how these leaders navigated dramatically difficult times. Their stories offer good clues on how we might approach and even thrive in our current times.
The Ford Motor Company had faltered for years. Car quality was abysmal, margins slim (often cars sold at a loss), and the Japanese manufacturers continued to gobble up market share. Ford’s biggest problem was entrenched, selfish executives working for their own gain instead of for the company, employees, and shareholders.
Alan arrived with a sense of purpose, patriotism, and positivity never witnessed in such a bureaucratic organization. He had turned Boeing around and knew he could succeed at Ford. He turned Ford around during the biggest financial crisis of our time without a government bailout using:
- Vision and a system of data and reporting to gauge progress: every Thursday (and multiple times a day during the financial crisis in 2008) the department heads would meet to walk through the health of the organization and initiatives. Being transparent, executives provided honest and accurate updates on their business units. If someone had a problem, everyone contributed to the solution.
- Trust and teamwork: when a business head first reported a problem (unheard of prior to Mulally), instead of firing or admonishing that person, Mulally praised and applauded their bravery and transparency. He rallied the team to arrive at a solution by working together.
- Accountability: each business unit held aggressive goals and objectives toward the overall mission and vision of Ford. Achievements were celebrated but shortcomings were addressed. If someone needed help, it was given but to continue to fail without improvement or make excuses became unacceptable. Executives who continued to defend their prior fiefdoms eventually self-selected out of the organization. The team that remained thrived and rallied behind the vision.