1. What are the similarities and differences between the cooperative culture and the adaptive culture?
2. How does a code of ethics help enforce ethical behavior in an organization?
3. What potential problems could develop in a case in which a leader is from a high-power-distance culture, but his followers are from a low-power-distance culture?
4. Describe the personality profile of an authentic leader
5. What are the major obstacles often encountered in trying to achieve diversity?
CASE: Mary Barra—New CEO of General Motors
On January 15, 2014, Mary Barra became the chief executive officer (CEO) of General Motors, the first female CEO of a major global automaker She is also a member of the GM board of directors. Commenting on her appointment, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, said, “I guess you could say she broke through the steel ceiling, not the glass ceiling.” Ms. Barra is not new to GM. She is an engineer who rose through the ranks, serving in a wide variety of jobs, including plant manager and vice president roles in manufacturing, engineering, human resources, and new product development. She has been with GM since 1980, when she first came as an intern. She is seen as someone with great smart skills, and toughness. Barra represents the new face of GM and an end to old thinking about the car maker. Asked to describe her management style, CEO Barra answered with one word, “collaborative.” She is a strong believer in the power of teamwork. “We come together as a team,” she said. “Putting a can truck or crossover on the road is a team sport, and I just view myself as part of the team.” Given the tough decisions that have to be made on GM’s direction and strategies, Barra says she welcomes the constructive tension that comes with vigorous debates. “I try to create an environment where people feel they could voice their concerns and that we can get the best ideas on the table and then make the right decision. But at the end of the day when the decision has to be made, if we don’t have complete unanimity I have no qualms about making it. But I want that tension in a constructive way to make sure we evaluate things from every angle.” Barra inherits a company that is much stronger in many ways but still with significant weaknesses. GM’s losses in Europe continue to mount (though they may have leveled off) as it fights to hold on to its gains in China against a resurgent Volkswagen. GM has to reestablish itself as a technology leader after losing more than a billion dollars on the failed Chevrolet Volt. Just about all the experts or analysts believe that she is highly qualified to deal with these issues. She proved herself in the restructuring of Europe’s Opel. Her engineering background and ability to get involved will allow her to efficiently supervise the rebuilding of GM’s product portfolio. And her earlier appointment as head of human resources gives her rare and valuable insights into GM’s still-evolving employee culture. Some say her biggest challenge will be to win over surviving GM traditionalists, those who either wanted her job or wanted someone from the old-boy network to get the job, Ms. Barra says she will know she has become successful when people stop referring to her as a “car girl” and just call her “boss.” Under her leadership, GM is striving to become the global industry leader in automobile design and technology product quality, customer service, and profitability. Her goal is to make sure that GM is profitable and “wins” in every segment of the market where it competes. Barra credits her parents for instilling core values about integrity and the importance of hard work; values that she has taken with her to every job she has ever held. On being a role model for aspiring young women, she said if by being a woman CEO, she can encourage young women who like math and science to not shy away from it, and to pursue technical careers, she has no hesitation doing that.
GO TO THE INTERNET: To learn more about CEO Mary Barra, visit the official Web site of General Motors at http://www.gm.com.
Support your answers to the following questions with specific information from the case and text or with information you get from the Web or another source.
2. In what ways has GM’s governing board shown that it embraces and supports diversity?
3. What is the evidence in the case to support the assertion that CEO Barra exemplifies the principles of authentic leadership?
4. What are some the factors in Mary Barra’s life that have influenced her values?