Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Other Guy At Ford

This week, Ford announced a profit for the ninth straight quarter and beat analysts' estimates. A few years ago, no one predicted this.

In 2006, it seemed like the economy was doing well everywhere except the auto business. In 2001, William Clay Ford, Jr., better known as "Bill" had tried to turn the tide at Ford when he became the fourth generation of his family to lead the company. But things hadn't gone that well.

In September 2006, Bill Ford announced that he was giving up the CEO job and bringing in Alan Mulally from Boeing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ford was the only major US automaker to avoid bankruptcy and bailout. CEO Alan Mulally has reaped immense and deserved praise for the job he's done. Fortune's readers named him "Businessman of the Year" and Chief Executive named him their "CEO of the Year."

That's great, but let's save some of the applause for Bill Ford. Without him there would be no Alan Mulally at Ford and, perhaps, bankruptcy and bailout instead. To make the good things happen, Bill Ford had to do some things that top executives rarely do.

Bill Ford had to admit that he couldn't do the job. Name one other major company CEO who has done that. I can't think of one.

Bill Ford had to give up power. That had to be part of the deal. No executive capable of doing the job would have it any other way.

Bill Ford had to bring an outsider into the industry and the company. That just wasn't done, especially in the auto business.

Bill Ford had to stay on and support the man who replaced him as CEO. Without Ford's support, it's unlikely that Alan Mulally would have succeeded the way he has.

I was one of those people who thought it would never work as I wrote in "Good choice or not, Mulally is probably doomed to failure." Give Mulally the credit for a job well done, but lavish praise on Bill Ford, too. Without his willingness to do the difficult and courageous thing and without his support, the ending of the story might be very different.

Boss's Bottom Line

No boss, no matter how savvy, no matter how skilled, can do it alone.

Thanks to Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog


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