As I listen to the growing speculation that you’re the favored candidate to lead Microsoft, I smile in admiration. But, I feel increasingly certain that this is not the right move for you.
As you said in casual conversation more than two years ago, Microsoft needs to create a team of technological fiefdoms, shedding what doesn’t make sense, and focusing efforts on what matters tomorrow. You have what Microsoft needs: an ability to bring together an enormous range of capabilities – hardware, software – and enterprises that you’ve made mesh splendidly, bringing disparate pieces together to create a unified whole – an organization, or as you call it, One Ford, that moves itself and society forward.
But, as our friend Frances Hesselbein, who taught leadership at West Point, puts it: “Leadership is who you are, not what you do.” Alan, you’re the soul of the new Ford Motor Company. By now, you are part of its DNA, just like its founder; you are in essence the founder of the 21st century Ford. Founders have lifelong relationships with their enterprises and mesh their identities with their organizations. Could Henry Ford ever have gone to another company? Would Steve Jobs have gone to Boeing?
Perhaps worst of all, moving to Microsoft would take the Mulally magic away from Ford. We need only look back to Lee Iococca, another new founder whose identity was wrapped into an organization, to see what happens when such a successful founder departs for another corporation: Chrysler collapsed. As the new Ford’s founder, jumping to the next corporate opportunity doesn’t fit the values of One Ford, One Team that define what Ford now is, or who you are.
For Ford to keep humming, people need to talk about you every day. You are part of the organizational lore and sense of meaning of Ford Motor Company, at least as much as Henry Ford himself was. I know you are a humble man. But, do not understate the importance of the Mulally effect on the enterprise.
I hope your next job is Secretary of Education or head of the Small Business Administration – jobs where you can continue to serve in a broader capacity while your spirit and values remain associated with Ford.
As you’ve said before, “Keep the Ford Focus.”