GM CEO Mary Barra spoke with CNBC’s Phil LeBeau on Monday and took full responsibility for the giant carmaker’s massive recalls, now topping 2.5 million vehicles.
You have to admire Barra for her willingness to take this hit, over and over again.
LeBeau more than gave the first female CEO of a major automaker an opening to blame GM’s recall debacle on that perennial easy target: middle management.
Barra was having none of it.
“I have never accepted [that] it is middle management that is the issue,” she said. “I’ve got to lead and demonstrate by example and drive that through the organisation.”
On the one hand, it’s quite predictable that a major CEO, facing a major crisis, would adopt a “buck stops here” stance. However, Barra could also be looking to a competitor for inspiration.
When Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford (he recently stepped down), after a successful run at Boeing, he set about creating a simple message that everyone at Ford to understand and sign on to. “One Ford” meant that the company was going to return to its core values and thrive.
The entire company got it and, more importantly, acted on it. The company did return to its core values, and it has thrived.
But even more important, Ford wouldn’t have unified around this theme if Mulally hadn’t come up with it. He led from the top in a way that didn’t blame middle management — it empowered middle management.
Barra has clearly learned this lesson and is trying to apply it at GM.
You can watch LeBeau’s full interview with Barra below (there are some interesting comments about what self-driving cars will need to be capable of if consumers are to trust them):
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