The Outsider: Alan Mulally's Leadership at Ford Motor Company

Drew Larabee


This research contributes to the family businesses literature by providing a case study about recent developments with Ford Motor Company, the Ford family, and former CEO Alan Mulally. Family business research has only recently begun examining conditions for effective nonfamily members’ leadership as CEO in family owned or controlled businesses. The Ford family has remained an influencing force throughout its storied automotive company’s history, and both family and nonfamily members have led the company as CEO. Business analysists have lauded Alan Mulally’s leadership in his dramatic company turnaround during the 2008 Great Recession, and a number of researchers have chronicled the Ford family story. However, no specific research exists examining the relationship dynamics between the Ford family and Ford’s various CEOs. Through our research, we seek to demonstrate how Mulally not only was Ford’s most transformative CEO, but his success stemmed largely from the Ford family’s united support for him. This paper presents a literature analysis pertaining to the family business genre relevant to the Ford family. We then provide a brief overview of Ford CEO leadership prior to Mulally with special attention given to family involvement during various tenures. Finally, we outline Mulally’s strategic policies for change while emphasizing how crucial the Ford family’s backing truly was for successful implementation of his plan and achieving positive outcomes.


Family Business, Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Company; Case Study; Ford Family; Non-family CEOs

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