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On Leadership video transcripts

On Leadership video transcripts

On Leadership publishes a weekly video series with prominent national and international leaders. Complete archives available here.

Transcript: Ford CEO on the 'liberating clarity' of his mission

Alan Mulally
Ford CEO and President Alan Mulally sat down with On Leadership's Steve Pearlstein to talk about leadership at the 2010 Washington Auto Show. This is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation about mission:

Alan Mulally: Maybe that's the most important thing that I'm doing, just even asking the questions: 'So where are we going? What's the plan to get there? Where are we on the plan? What areas need special attention?' Can you imagine when the leader is asking more than telling?

Steven Pearlstein: How has your leadership style changed over the years? What have you learned; what did you know now that you didn't used to? What mistake have you learned from, in terms of leadership that you didn't used to know?

Mulally: I think always remembering that we're here to serve. You know we have the honor to be selected to be the leader. But, we're actually serving our customers, we're serving our employees. The more that you have a servant perspective or a servant attitude then the more inclusion you have, the more respect for other people's ideas, and you'll seek to understand before you seek to be understood. But then the power of people pulling together -- it just continues to amaze me.

Pearlstein: You are an outsider, a lot of outsiders who come in, particularly in the C-suite at the top, they make a lot of of changes. You did not make a lot of changes. Do you think it's a mistake to go in with the idea that you're going to clean house at the top?

Mulally: Well I think it depends. I think that one of the most important things that the leader decides is an assessment of the talent that you have.
What's interesting is that only a few people are gone, but over 80 percent of the people are in a different position than when I arrived. So everybody's on the team, but they're in different positions that absolutely utilize their strengths. So in Ford's case, because we have the talent and we now have them in a better position, we've absolutely accelerated the progress.

Pearlstein: In interviews, you've said, "Communicate, communicate, communicate, that's what a top leader has to do." At some level everyone knows that and nobody does it. Why don't they do it? Why is that in fact such a hard thing for someone to do? Why do they get distracted?

Mulally: What I have found is that the more people that really understand where you're going and how you're going to get there and what is expected of each of us, then the faster you make progress. So this communication is not just about me telling them, it's about creating an environment -- like the business plan review process -- where everybody knows the plan. The more that everybody knows what's going on, I think that you really accelerate individual performance, and you accelerate team performance. Can you imagine how liberating that is when you get clarity around what business you're in, who your customers are and what do we need to do to compete with the best in the world? I think that those big decisions just unleash the creativity of Ford.

Transcribed and edited by Fahima Haque.

By On Leadership video transcripts

 |  March 17, 2010; 5:44 AM ET
Category:  CEOs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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