Practices of a Level 5 Leader


Alan Mulally’s upcoming retirement as CEO of Ford Motor Company is big news these days.  All organizations, not just those in the automotive sector, should take notice.  Mulally’s leadership in turning around Ford highlights a Level 5 Leader (a leader who places the success and results of the organization ahead of their own individual accomplishments and legacy).  Here are some key practices he, and the executive leaders, used to take Ford to the top of the industry.

Most significantly, or simply, Mulally used a tight weekly executive team meeting (his BPR, or Business Process Review) to drive both business plan execution and building a strong leadership team.  Candor, trust and accountability, virtually non-existent in past Ford culture, now form the foundation for the executive level leaders.  With that foundation, a deliberate focus on data culminated in a dramatic turn-around (2007 – 2009) followed by years of consistent business performance.

Second, Mulally created a simple vision for the organization, repeated that vision all the time and didn’t change the course even when people outside were constantly looking for the next “new plan”.  His view was, we have the right plan and we’re still working on implementing it.

Third, Mulally focused the organization back on the customer.  Significant money was invested in new product development and quality initiatives even during significant cuts to operations.  What mattered to customers was appealing designs, good fuel economy and cars that didn’t break.

Fourth, Mulally simplified the business.  Ford reduced the number of brands (auto name plates) down to two.   They also reduced waste and redundancy in operations by coordinating design, engineering, quality and manufacturing efforts across the entire global organization.

Mulally’s final step will be completing a deliberate and orderly succession.  Here is a link to a recent article highlighting the transition.

For more in-depth understanding, see the book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman.



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