The times they are a changing, A day after the U.S. government sold the last of it’s General Motors stock the news came out that, effective January 14, 2013, Dan Akerson is stepping down as CEO and Mary Barra is stepping up. In my first article about the changing of the guards at General Motors I specifically left out the “female” in the headline, but so much is being made of the fact that Barra is a woman that the issue needs to be addressed.
For many GM insiders this is the expected unexpected. Akerson has been touting Barra as the next CEO of General Motors, but many thought Mark Reuss was the next heir apparent. Both Barra and Reuss are lifers inside General Motors, both have great qualifications for being CEO, so why all the hoppla? Because Barra is a woman.
In a man’s world it is assumed that once he is pronounced the CEO of a company it is because he has earned it and will be the best person for the job. In posts on facebook there have been comments about Barra and whether she can do the job effectively, but there are comments from women saying that she is an inspiration. In an industry that has never had a female CEO Barra is shattering the glass ceiling and the shards are falling.
Part of the problem for Barra is she followed the iconic Bob Lutz. It would have been hard for anyone to follow Lutz, Lutz is known for saying whatever he wanted, a journalist’s dream. Barra is more conservative, more corporate speak. Some say the reason Lutz never got the CEO job was for the very reason he was revered. Now is the time for Barra to assemble her team with a synergy that makes General Motors work. The next few months will be telling. Will there be a mass exodus of talent or will Barra be able to keep her new team intact?
Barra beat out GM President of North America Mark Reuss, 50, Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann, 41, and vice chairman Steve Girsky, 51 for the CEO job. She is known for standardizing parts and for saying that GM would not make “crappy cars”. According to GM Barra was responsible for the Chevy Impala, a car that was just heralded as sedan of the year by Consumer Reports. The Chevy Corvette, Cadillac CTS and Chevy Silverado have all been nominated as the North American Car Truck of the Year.
Just like Anne Stevens from Ford, if you don’t have much time left and you’ve touched the CEO ring, do you stay where you are, or do you find another CEO ring that is yours? I talked, via email, to Anne Stevens, former COO of Ford Motor Company today and she said, “When Alan (Mulally) was brought in I felt I was going to be at the age where Id retire before the CEO job would be filled again.”
Now that Mark Reuss, 50, has been passed over for CEO will he start taking the headhunters calls? Is Microsoft still looking?