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Today’s post highlights a McKinsey&Company interview with Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford (read here). The reason for the share is that I connected with Mulally’s responses and thought about how they transfer, more generally, to how great leaders focus on building and nurturing relationships in order to make great places for employees to work.

Leading in the 21st century: An interview with Ford’s Alan Mulally 

The full interview is worth the few minute read; to boost your interest, below are more than a few takeaways from Mulally’s responses that focus on building and nurturing relationships:

At the most fundamental level, [my leadership style is that] it is an honor to serve.

Everyone is part of the team and everyone’s contribution is respected, so everyone should participate. When people feel accountable and included, it is more fun. It is just more rewarding to do things in a supportive environment.

It is actually much more productive to say, “What can we do to help you out?”… So it is important to create a safe environment for people to have an honest dialogue, especially when things go wrong.

Every week we have a Business Plan Review meeting, or BPR. Our entire global leadership team, every business leader, every functional leader, attends either remotely or in person… It provides a fantastic window on the world—the whole team knows everything that is going on.

The first thing a leader does is facilitate connections between the organization and the outside world… Second, leaders hold themselves and their teams accountable… And finally, leaders are responsible for trying to articulate and model a set of behaviors.

It is more than a way of asking, “How are we doing?”… And then all through the year, what is our plan to improve our performance in the following year?”

At the heart of our culture is the One Ford plan, which is essentially our vision for the organization and its mission. And at the heart of the One Ford plan is the phrase “One Team.” Those are more than just words. We really expect our colleagues to model certain behaviors. People here really are committed to the enterprise and to each other. They are working for more than themselves.

Think about Mulally’s responses more generally, that is, the generalizability (or not) of the organization’s “One Ford Plan” culture, and leader and employee actions; do these relate to the work we do as leaders in our organizations? For example, Ford engages in weekly BPRs and the end result is “the whole team knows everything that is going on” (above). At Studer Education we engage in weekly Rounding and Tent Meetings for the same purpose and as a means of progress monitoring. We find this a helpful way to communicate results across the team and to our senior leader. Check out the interview… It’s an opportunity to think about how this process and the other actions Mulally describes may transfer to you and your organization.




Kirkland, Rik. November 2013. Leading in the 21st century: An interview with Ford’s Alan Mulally, Insights & Publications, from McKinsey&Company. Interview/article accessed here.

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