Leadership Development Practice at Ford Motor Company
Given the enormous effect of an informed and effective leadership team on a company's profitability, it is not surprising that leadership development has become an important part of the practices of many Fortune 100 companies. By identifying potential leaders today and providing them with the training and education they will need to become effective leaders in the future, these companies are making an investment in their futures. The costs that are associated with providing these leadership development programs are significant, though, making the need for informed and effective practices essential. To determine how one Fortune 100 company is approaching the need for such leadership development programs, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature concerning Ford Motor Company, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
Review and Discussion
One Fortune 100 company that has clearly embraced the need for continuous leadership development is Ford Motor Company (hereinafter alternatively "Ford" or "the company"). For example, according to Felicia Fields, the group vice president for Human Resources and Corporate Services at Ford Motor Company, "Leadership and professional development are a high priority for us. We're focused on specific competencies, like knowing and having a passion for our business and our customers, and having a continuous improvement philosophy and practice driven by facts and data" (quoted in Egodiwe, 2009 at p. 48). The company has established important criteria for selecting which employees have the potential for joining their executive cadre, including so-called "gung ho" attitudes. In this regard, Fields adds that, "We're very centered on having people who have what we call 'working together' behaviors, things like developing teams, having a can-do, positive attitude, people who find a way, who are resourceful and have emotional resilience, people who are great communicators, who are courageous, who take initiative" (quoted in Egodiwe, 2009 at p. 49). These are clearly desirable attributes for corporate leaders which are applicable in virtually any geographic location irrespective of what type of national culture is in place.
Moreover, Ford maintains its emphasis on leadership development even during periods of economic downturn, reflecting its ongoing corporate commitment to providing opportunities for continuing leadership development (Egodiwe, 2009). Despite the fact that the company competes on a global basis, though, it has also sought to develop a "one-size-fits-all" approach to its leadership development practices. This universal approach to the delivery of leadership development programs is based on the company's desire to formulate cost-effective approaches that promote a single image brand around the world. In this regard, Fields adds that, "We have 'One Ford,' so we have one process, we have one brand identity. As an HR leader, I'm building one global skill team. For example, our leadership program -- some are developed in Europe, North America, or Asia, and we use them all over the globe. In the past, everyone used their own programs for their own region" (quoted in Egodiwe, 2009 at p. 49).
Taken together, the "one-size-fits-all" approach to Ford's leadership development practices may be ignoring some vitally important cross-cultural factors that will adversely affect the effectiveness of these developmental initiatives. For example, Krivokapic-Skoko, Dowell, O'Neill and Kleinschafer report that, "Employees from collectivist societies will form psychological contracts that are relational in nature, while individualist cultures will form psychological contracts that are transactional in nature" (2009, p. 87). In addition, the cross-cultural effects on leadership development will likely affect how effective these programs are in achieving their intended goals. In this regard, Krivokapic-Skoko and her associates add that, "The nature of these psychological contracts will influence the affective, normative and continuance commitment of employees in the firm, and, therefore, the firm's ability to manage their employees/human capital/human assets" (2009, p. 87).
By applying a "one-size-fits-all" approach to their leadership development programs, Ford is therefore failing to take these important cross-cultural effects into account, an omission that may ultimately backfire on the company as it seeks to expand its global presence. For instance, according to Krovokapic-Skoko et al., "From an applied perspective, enhanced understanding of the psychological contract will be of considerable benefit for employers and managers who need to successfully manage employment relationships in non-Western contexts" (2009, p. 88). This observation indicates that…