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John R. Ryan
Military/Administrative leader

John R. Ryan

John R. Ryan is president of the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive education.

Mulally, turn-around driver

At the Center for Creative Leadership, we've learned from decades of practice and research that successful leadership hinges on such crucial skills as collaboration, communication and judgment. Ford CEO Alan Mulally has shown us how to embody these skills in an extraordinarily high-pressure environment - and he's a natural choice for the 2009 leader of the year.

Judging from the many positive things I've read and heard about him, Mulally has radically changed Ford's culture since arriving from Boeing in 2006. He's fostered cooperation among divisions and regions that used to compete ferociously with each other for resources and internal supremacy. He's modeled transparency, meeting regularly with employees for Q&A sessions and instituting a dashboard system that makes key metrics about sales, market share and other important trends more visible to the organization. He showed superb judgment by ignoring internal complaints and selling Jaguar and Land Rover - luxury brands that were siphoning attention away from the Ford brand itself - while buyers were still available.

Ford, like most carmakers, still faces a tough road. But the fact that it has not only survived the Great Recession but is also showing real signs of promise is a testament to how rapidly Mulally's leadership has turned the company around. Ford did not accept a credit line from the federal government. And, even more relevant to the bottom line, it's making better cars. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports recommended nearly three-quarters of Ford's cars to buyers, while withholding high marks from most of Chrysler's and GM's offerings. Mulally, being a team player, probably credits his colleagues for Ford's remarkable progress - and it's true that individual leaders cannot effectively run global companies by themselves. But sometimes a single leader's vision and persistence can jump-start a turnaround - and Mulally deserves considerable credit for that.

By John R. Ryan

 |  December 15, 2009; 1:36 PM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Having had the privilege of meeting Allan twice, I concur with his selection. He has an amazing touch with people, he listens, and he's a great role model, especially during tough times.

Posted by: coachmarilyn | December 15, 2009 8:04 PM
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