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Ford runs on hard data, not soft hunches

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

Many CEOs favor fact-based leadership. Rather than rely on their impressions or gut instinct, they tend to scrutinize facts and make decisions rooted in hard data.

Alan Mulally, Ford Motor’s 68-year-old CEO, has stood out among leaders of American auto companies for his intense focus on numbers. He rescued Ford after taking the top job in 2006. Within a few years, he improved Ford’s performance so much that it was the only one of the big three U.S. car makers that did not need financial support from the federal government.

Through weekly meetings with his sen­­ior management team, Mulally gathers the data he wants. Some executives attend in person and others via videoconference.

Mulally brings a war-room atmosphere to these meetings. Everyone senses the urgency as they discuss the firm’s latest operating numbers.

Going line by line through the figures, Mulally questions his lieutenants about the numbers. He inquires about their accuracy and spars with his team about what the data portends for the future.

These lively gatherings enable Mulally and his top brass to reach more informed decisions. Because facts and figures dominate the discussions, vague hunches get shunted aside.

Mulally has hosted weekly executive-team meetings throughout his career, including during his years as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes just be­­fore he joined Ford. Trained as an engineer, he treats data as a vital analytical tool. Based on his stellar track record—some observers call him one of the world’s top CEOs—Mulally’s weekly sessions have clearly paid off.

— Adapted from Masters of Management, Adrian Wooldridge, HarperBusiness.

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