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Mary Barra’s Leadership at General Motors Term Paper

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Updated: Aug 1st, 2021

Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors and the most powerful woman leader in the automotive industry. She has worked at GM for the past 38 years, and in that period, held different managerial positions that have shaped her leadership style. She attributes her success to seven key principles: seeking feedback from staff, simplifying her message, conducting inclusive discussions, effecting change, gaining knowledge of the business, aligning on values, and leading culture with behaviors. Her leadership accomplishments have been made possible by various leadership traits and practices that include respect, decisiveness, team orientation, innovation, collaboration, and openness to input.

One of her major accomplishments is increased productivity and efficiency at GM. This goal has been achieved through her focus on promoting collaboration and teamwork (Chen, 2018). She believes that a strong leadership is based on effective teams. She has been quoted as saying that the production of efficient vehicles is a team sport. In that regard, she holds regular meetings to gather ideas and opinions from employees (Chen, 2018). In addition, she is known to seek feedback from the staff. The reception of diverse input from the employees aids in decision-making. This leadership approach is feasible because Barra has exceptional listening skills and she is approachable (Colby, 2015). Her inclusive leadership style values the input of each employee and it has led to the creation of highly effective work teams that have propelled GM to the top of the automotive industry. Her leadership has modernized GM as the company aims to grow into a leading manufacturer of electric and self-driving cars (Chen, 2018).

Decisiveness is one of the reasons for Barra’s accomplishments. She allows employees to offer their opinions and ideas. However, she always has the final say in the managerial matters that affect the company. Successful leaders are kind, empathetic, and good communicators. Barra uses these traits to solicit the views of her staff on the best direction to take regarding projects. She follows a consensus approach when making decisions (Colby, 2015). However, when it fails to work, she steps in confidently and makes the final decision. She is effective at making the final decision whenever team members fail to agree on certain issues. This approach mobilizes employees to increase engagement, generate more innovative ideas, and feel as an integral part of the organization (Colby, 2015).

Another key accomplishment is improved sales after embracing innovation. The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu was one of GM’s flops because of low sales. However, Barra led a team that made enhancements to the model, and as a result, improved sales. This was a monumental achievement because no other CEO had done it before in the history of the company. She mitigated the auto crisis by embracing innovation in order to improve efficiency (Colby, 2015). For instance, the company began manufacturing vehicles that used similar parts. Moreover, she streamlined the company’s product development and purchasing departments and had them collaborate. Barra is also an accountable leader. After the 2014 global scandal that led to 124 deaths, she took responsibility and recalled 2.6 million cars (Colby, 2015). She probed the issue and fired 15 employees who were liable for the defective ignition switch that had caused the crisis. She implemented new policies that required employees to report problems. Her response to the challenge changed the company’s culture.

Barra’s leadership traits and practices have been invaluable in her numerous accomplishment as the CEO of General Motors. Innovation, the creation of a culture based on transparency and teamwork, increased sales and efficiency are some of her leadership accomplishments since she became the CEO of General Motors. She has modernized GM through innovation and the embracement of new technologies.

References

Chen, R. (2018). Web.

Colby, L. (2015). Road to power: How GM’s Mary Barra shattered the glass ceiling. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Mary Barra's Leadership at General Motors." August 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mary-barras-leadership-at-general-motors/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Mary Barra's Leadership at General Motors'. 1 August.

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