Authentic Leadership Story At Ford

Find Out An Brilliant Example of Authentic Leadership from Alan Mullaly, former CEO of the car manufacturer Ford. A true inspiration to lead the way!
Source: Lison Mage Youtube Channel

Why We Need More Of Authentic Leadership

In my last video, I presented how leaders can overcome standstill situations in their organization and create new opportunities for growth, as they promote a culture of authenticity.

Authenticity is essential for trust.

Being authentic is a sign of leadership. It is displaying to others that it is normal to have strengths and weaknesses. It is telling others that since we are all improving daily, we can fail on the way and that failure should not be feared.

Once an organization, under the impulsion from its leadership, overcomes the fear of failing, it can set itself on new paths, discover new horizons, be innovative, and uncover new opportunities.

Alan Mullaly embodies the essence of authentic leadership.

He was instrumental in the massive turnaround of Ford, starting after the subprime’ crisis, in 2008. Being true to himself, he was the only big American car manufacturers to refuse the help of the US government. It was a difficult decision, which massively put into debt the company.

Yet the Americans acknowledged this tremendous effort and surely it creates a sense of pride within the company. They did what no one else did in this industry, they remain true to themselves.

The story of Mullaly clapping at the report from one of his leadership executives is also a powerful demonstration of his own authentic leadership.

In a siloed organization, where no one is used to collaborate, where there are fights for power or influence, it is easy to feel how each of Mullaly’s close collaborators would fear doing a mistake.

This fear accentuates opacity. The information is not shared, even less leveraged and nothing will really change, which is a recipe for disaster.

And the company Ford was definitively not in a good shape, with an annual loss over 17 billion dollars…

Alan Mullaly, during these weekly executive meetings, assigned clear responsibilities to each member. They all knew which projects or tasks they were in charge of and respectively, which they weren’t. This clarified the duties and gave everybody the same level of information.

Everybody knew then who had to do what.

Secondly, as everyone had to report on their progress and what was holding back, issues were supposed to be shared, constructively answered and solutions leveraged across the whole company.

The second point was way harder to implement due to the fear of failing, losing influence, or position. Yet, by openly encouraging his peers to be transparent, Mullaly broke a taboo.

He reminded his leadership team that this is what they were: a team. As such, they needed to openly share and collaborate.

They needed to be authentic.

They needed to accept their humanity, their vulnerability. That is is normal to have issues, to make mistakes and there is no reason for hiding them. Instead, they must be celebrated!

As the former Ford’s CEO, you might even want to clap at them!

More About Authentic Leadership

If you want to know more about authentic leadership, I suggest you to read the book: “Dare To Lead – Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts” by Brené Brown.

Book: Dare To LeadAuthor: Brené Brown

Although there are many books on leadership, few investigate this concept under the angles of vulnerability, values, trust, and resilience as Brené did.

In an environment prone to scarcity, fear, and uncertainty, it requires courage to lead.

You need courage to be authentic, to accept to be seen as vulnerable.

You need courage to stick to your values, when it is so easy to look the other way.

You need courage to trust others, to be able to give trust almost “blindly”, to give a chance.

Finally, you need courage to be resilient, to know that no matter the difficulties you encounter, in the end you will prevail.

If you want to know more about how to be a daring leader and develop authenticity, go read this book: “Dare To Lead – Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts” by Brené Brown, using this link

Picture of Lison Mage

Lison Mage

I help clever individuals and teams conquer overthinking and perform at their full potential. Together, we can go from a place of uncertainty and being paralyzed by doubt to gaining clarity on your current situation, where you want to go, and how to get you there!


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