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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

Leadership: What can we learn from Alan Mulally and Ford Motor Company? Part 1

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

When Mulally accepted the position as President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company in 2006, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy and suffering from a toxic corporate culture where backstabbing was the norm and individuals were more concerned with their careers than the company itself. The poor corporate culture, lack of collaboration among executives, financial instability, and a culture of secrecy that dated back to Henry Ford's reign of the company were significant barriers that needed to be overcome.

Why is this important? If you cannot inspire and influence the people around you, your vision will never become a reality. You will be caught in the spiral of the status-quo and never achieve greatness. In my reading of the book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the fight to save Ford Motor Company, I have concluded that Mulally's transformational and charismatic leadership style was evident in his ability to gain the buy-in of his executive team, as well as his employees, to his vision for Ford's future. As a transformational leader, he was able to work with his employees to identify much-needed changes in product line offerings and inefficiencies within Ford, and he possessed a relentless determination and resiliency to implement change.

Mulally's leadership style is often referred to as unique and encompassing numerous characteristics that we can learn from:[1]

  • He is a transformational and charismatic leader who can bring teams together to foster innovation and collaboration. As leaders, we need to create an environment where everyone feels that they are a part of the team, respected, and their contributions on an individual basis are essential in propelling a company forward.

  • He is a visionary with the ability to create a strategic plan and bring that vision to fruition. Estimates indicate sixty-seven percent of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. As a leader, you need to have a clear long-term perspective of where your organization needs to be in the future and the determination to implement effective strategies.

  • He is an innovative leader who understands technology and its usefulness in maintaining a competitive advantage.[2] Leaders need to foresee trends and pivot to use technology to its maximum potential in today's rapidly evolving technological environment.

  • He is a servant leader and believes foremost that it is an honor to serve any organization. In a previous post, we discussed Servant Leadership, a leadership approach that employs a deep sense of empathy and awareness to bring out the best in those around you.

  • He is a leader who recognizes the importance of change management. When asked about his leadership and management style that enabled him to transform Ford's culture, Mulally stated, "A turnaround isn't about the executives at the top or their brilliant strategy. It's about figuring out a way to get every employee to understand the vision of the company, buy into the plan, and feel supported in their jobs."1 As a leader, if you don't believe in what you're doing, neither will your employees.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you want to learn more, our Leadership training for practitioners contains all the materials you'll need to strengthen your leadership skills to help you cultivate connections with your employees or clients. Email us at for more information.

Dr. Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience across multiple industries and highly skilled in the areas of strategic planning, organizational behavior, human resource management, change management, and Leadership. Over ten years of teaching experience as a university professor of management, with a special focus on Leadership in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and international management.

________________________________________________________________________ [1] Nisen, M. (2013). Alan Mulally Explains How He Turned Around Ford. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from [2] Caldicott, S. M. (2014). Why Ford’s Alan Mulally Is An Innovation CEO For The Record Books. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from

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