GM Chooses a Woman to Lead It:
What’s Good for GM is Good for America
By Shlomo Maital
Just hours ago, General Motors chose its new CEO, to replace retiring Dan Akerson. Akerson’s wife is battling cancer and Akerson chose nobly to resign, to join her in her battle.
The new CEO is Mary Barra and she joins a handful of women who are now leading top global firms: Xerox, Yahoo, HP and IBM. Barra’s style is friendly and low-key. She previously served as VP. Barra is an engineer, and at long last, finally places a ‘car person’ and engineer at the head of GM, instead of bean-counting financial experts who loved balance sheets more than Pontiacs (a brand that, alas, was killed by such bean-counters). She understands a simple principle that GM assembly line workers (her father was one) have known for years: GM will succeed by building great cars, not by managing costs.
Margaret Thatcher once said famously, “if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” GM has done just that.
After Obama and the US Treasury bailed out GM, a highly controversial decision, GM has emerged from bankruptcy. According to an analyst, “The bankruptcy transformed the balance sheet, but the transformation of the company is still a work in progress …..only time will tell whether Barra, who has spent her entire career at GM, is the change agent as touted by Akerson.”
Barra’s specialty is product development and she reorganized GM’s chaotic global car development process. She now has to stop the bleeding in GM’s Europe division, restore competitiveness for GM in China (Buick has lots leadership to VW there) and above all, create beautiful reliable sexy cars for people who love cars.
Alfred Sloan created GM by stitching together small independent car companies: Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and keeping them lean, flexible and competitive (even with one another). GM lost that culture. Can Mary Barra restore it? Let’s hope. A lot of jobs depend on it.
Barra is only 51, and some feel she lacks experience to run a huge sprawling troubled company like GM. I strongly disagree. The old-age pensioners who’ve been running GM have not been outstanding. Let’s give youth, and women, and engineers, a chance; Barra has those three qualities.
This could work for the US Presidency. Remember Hillary? Could she have done a lot better than the bumbling Barack? Sometimes, indeed, what’s good for GM really is good for America.