We Need More Leaders Like Mulally

by Anne Deeter Gallaher

May 03, 2014

The following is a Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor by Anne Deeter Gallaher, which appeared in the March 5, 2010 issue.

“The Weekend Interview With Alan Mulally” by Paul Ingrassia (Feb. 27) shows a rare glimpse of what we desperately need: an injection of realism. “It’s all about producing products people want,” says Mr. Mulally on Ford’s long-shot restructuring and revival. It’s a message entrepreneurs know firsthand—create a product to fill consumer demand.

Mr. Mulally has been described by the media as a Boy Scout, with his clean-cut appearance and keen ability to make everyone in his presence feel important, and I’m sure that contributes to the company’s international “One Ford” focus. But you don’t prune a “Fortune seven” organization and negotiate with the United Auto Workers armed with kindness and good intentions. In a time of global uncertainty, we need a business leader with orienteering skills who acts like a leader—no blame, no excuses, no retreat. His strength of purpose appears to come from a deep resolve to prove “There is no reason that America can’t compete in a global economy.” The consumer response is clear as shown in Tuesday’s WSJ.com headline: “Ford Outsells GM in the U.S.”

One positive outcome from our economic vertigo is that strong leaders are refined and weak leaders are exposed. In an industry that was comfortable with glutting the market with too many nameplates and too little innovation, Mr. Mulally is the maverick. “I love hanging out with skilled and motivated people,” he says. An executive who commands respect, leads with resolve and delivers results. How refreshing is that?