Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Alan Mulally

It is extremely rare for one leader to play a major role in two of America's top industries. Alan Mulally is that rare case.

As president of Boeing's commercial-airplane business in the late 1990s, he revamped the company's product mix, transformed production and embraced digital technology. In the process, he made Boeing a model for global manufacturing. He also guided the company through the aftermath of 9/11, which dealt a nearly crippling blow to the aerospace industry. Fast-forward to 2009 and the challenges facing Detroit and the entire global auto industry are daunting. As CEO of Ford Motor Co., Alan, 63, is restructuring a 100-year-old industrial powerhouse in the midst of a crisis that threatens the very survival of our auto industry.

I'm rooting for him. My support is both emotional and rational. My father worked at Ford for more than 30 years. On the business side, the auto industry is an important customer and partner for Microsoft, with a long track record of shared technological innovation.

Changing industries can upset even the most seasoned executive. Not Alan. He understands the fundamentals of business success as well as any business leader I know. He has smartly and sensitively made the transition from airplanes to cars, inspiring confidence and trust in employees, suppliers, shareholders and customers. As the auto industry steers through this critical period, leaders like Alan are essential to delivering on the vision of new energy-efficient vehicles and connected technologies. Ford is fortunate to have a man of his qualities at the wheel.

Ballmer is CEO of Microsoft

Fast Fact: Having already borrowed $23 billion privately, Mulally refused a federal bailout