When it comes to understanding how a leader should be, Alan Mulally is an epitome role model to learn from. Mulally saving Ford from multibillion-dollar losses to bringing in five consecutive years of profits, not only envisaged him as a corporate leader but also established him as a compelling leader. According to him, a turnaround does not just intend an executive at the top of their strategy, but it’s also about figuring out a way to align the vision of the company with the employees and ensuring they feel encouraged in their jobs. If people are optimistic, they will willingly take the essential steps to turn things around. He deems – positive leadership is conveying the idea that there is always a way forward and reinforcing the concept that everyone is a part of the team and everyone’s contribution is respected. Mulally emphasises, “People want meaning. All of us want to know that we are doing great things, that we are touching a lot of people, and that what we are doing is something bigger than ourselves.”
The former CEO believes that being the best self, having the best team who focuses on what’s best for the organisation, having the best partnership that stays with one from win/lose to win/win, making the best investments and being the best citizen who makes a difference, is the key to building a world-class organisation.
An infectious optimist, Mulally used the same belief as a paradigm to turn around the future of Ford. He created a ‘one team’ motto to eliminate all the pre-existing silos and turf battels and designed a simplified leadership structure that supported the vision to get people to work across the company as a global team. He staunchly believes that without trust, cooperation and teamwork, there is no success that would be coming one’s way. He accentuates, “Leadership is about having a compelling vision, a comprehensive plan, relentless implementation and talented people working together.”
Mulally, through his speeches, has firmly entrenched that leadership isn’t about telling people how to do their job or do their jobs for them; it is about working together. For him, leadership is not just about having a vision, it is about having a plan to implement it whilst ensuring everyone is involved. Mulally propagates, “Leadership is moving from ‘I’ to ‘we’ and ‘me’ to ‘service.”
An exemplary leader who brought Ford back to its roots, Mulally, through his leadership, has instilled that inspiring leaders are exceptional communicators who are passionate about their products, evangelise their brand at every opportunity and articulate a compelling vision with a healthy dose of optimism.