Fast Company

CHARTING NEW ROADS

Ford’s new CEO, Jim Hackett, is propelling the 115-year-old company into the future while respecting its celebrated past.
“[Cars] give a sense of control, independence, and freedom. In the future, that will matter too.”

More than a century ago, Ford Motor Co. made the automobile a mass-market consumer product accessible to all. Last May, Jim Hackett took over as the company’s CEO and faced a challenge as big as anything Henry Ford ever encountered: to lead the company into a future defined by autonomous vehicles, clean fuel alternatives, and the concept of mobility as a tech-driven mobile service. Hackett talks to Fast Company’s Robert Safian about the need for agility and how it’s shaping his plans to recast Ford’s business model and culture.

You were previously the CEO of another company, Steelcase, which went through some transitions and culture changes. This is a different kind of spotlight.

I had this interim assignment as the University of Michigan athletic director where I hired [former star quarterback] Jim Harbaugh as head football coach, so that spotlight was big.

You don’t mind the spotlight?

It’s not painful, [but] I don’t seek it. It feeds some of the wrong things about the way people think of business. The cult of personality as a CEO, there are some people who can pull that off. Very few. I would rather be in the background and be known as a person who’s thoughtful, whom people love to work for, and then the team

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