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The Power of a Fearlessly Ethical Business Leader


The Power of a Fearlessly Ethical Business Leader

Amanda Setili shares a short post on what a workshop with Alan Mulally, retired Ford CEO, taught her about business leadership.

I had the enormous good fortune to not just attend an enlightening workshop delivered by retired Ford CEO, Alan Mulally, but to also spend time talking with him and gaining a deeper understanding of some of the elements that have made him so successful.

To refresh your memory, Alan took over at Ford in 2006, the year they lost $17 billion; by the time he left in 2014, the company was once again an industry leader.

He used some unorthodox techniques that proved highly effective. For example, Alan explains that once you become a leader, your facial expressions don’t belong to you anymore. You should keep a (genuine) smile on your face, because when you smile your stock goes up AND your employees are inspired.

He is a detail-oriented engineer who begins his operating plan with the words “People first…Love ‘em up”. He draws little hearts on business documents. He is kind and charismatic.

But none of this means he was diverted by “soft stuff” or unable to make tough decisions. As I wrote in my book, The Agility Advantage, under Alan’s leadership, Ford shut down the Mercury line and sold Land Rover, Jaguar, and Volvo. They focused on just two brands: Lincoln and Ford.

Alan genuinely believes that work is love made visible. He believes every person is worthy of love and respect. He says that the people who know how to solve the vast majority of any company’s problems are deep within the ranks of the organization, and that a leader’s job is to identify problems and find the people best qualified to solve them.

Alan makes the case that a leader owns “how we do things around here,” He expected employees to adhere to a set of behaviors that included clear performance goals and relentless implementation.

He changed how people at Ford interacted, by insisting that people respect, help, listen to and appreciate each other.

Many thanks to Marshall Goldsmith and his 100 Coaches organization for bringing us together with Alan Mulally. If you haven’t already, I urge you to read more about his “Working Together” management system.


Key points include:

  • The love/work connection
  • Relentless implementation
  • Performance goals


Access the article, What Alan Mulally Taught Me Last Weekend, on