Henry Ford on Leadership
HENRY FORD was born 150 years ago, three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg on July 30, 1863. At 16 left the farm to develop his skills taking an apprenticeship as a machinist in Detroit. Ford would often switch jobs when he felt he could learn more in another position. Ford learned by careful observation and trial and error.
Although, his first and second car companies failed, Ford learned more about cars, how to run a business, and more importantly how to attract talent to make his vision a reality.
The times Ford was born into and his impact on them understandably convinced him of the superiority of his own intuition. He had the problem that haunts many successful leaders: self-delusion. He believed what he wanted to believe and was certain that he always knew best.
Harvard professor Richard Tedlow observed in Giants of Enterprise, "If Henry Ford had died in February of 1914, after the announcement of the $5 dollar day, he would be remembered almost without qualification as a man of true greatness. His flaws were noticeable in his first half century of life, but they would have been forgotten…. As his wealth grew and his fame engulfed the whole world, he lost all perspective. No life better exemplifies the derangement of power."
His defiant, tenacious, and compulsive nature accounts for his early successes. His inner strength made his dreams possible but it didn't leave much room for introspection. Without a healthy self-awareness, Ford allowed his strengths to run amuck. If he was creative, he was irrational. If he attracted great talent, he also drove it away. If he was direct, he was insensitive. Without an inner compass, Henry Ford was a man of great extremes—for better and for worse. Henry Ford leaves us much to be admired but he also reminds us of the importance of a healthy self-awareness.
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