Ford Finds a New Leader, By Design

CEO Jim Hackett brings an intellectual approach and an outsider’s perspective to the job. Here’s how he plans to transform the underperforming automaker.

SOME COMPANIES take a cookie-cutter approach to selecting their CEOs. They might favor home-grown talent, for instance, or engineers steeped in the company’s products, or sales-people who excel at spinning a corporate yarn. The next CEO tends to look like the previous CEO, and will be followed by someone cut from the same cloth.

The Ford Motor Co., on the other hand, follows no discernible pattern at all. In the past two decades alone it has toggled from an operations whiz (Jacques Nasser) to a young scion of its founding family (Bill Ford) to an exec who was an automotive neophyte (Alan Mulally) and back again to another true-blue insider (Mark Fields).

With the unexpected sacking of Fields this spring and the appointment of 62-year-old former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, Ford has once again zigged where before it had zagged. Hackett isn’t a car guy. And unlike Mulally, who had previously piloted Boeing’s commercial airplane business, he hasn’t run a giant industrial concern. Instead, Hackett is as close to an intellectual as the executive suite is ever likely

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