Leadership certainly knows no gender. Even automobile giant, General Motors Company (GM), knows this and wisely appointed Mary Barra to be its first female CEO and Chairperson of the board. Barra started working for GM when she was 18, rose in rank, and is now holding the combined vital role in the company. Before and during her helm, GM encountered various crises, including the recall of 30 million cars due to faulty ignitions. But with Barra’s outstanding leadership skills, she was able to weather the challenges and steer GM to be one of today’s largest and most successful automobile manufacturers in the world.
Mary Barra is a resilient and an exceptional leader, who does whatever it takes to help her company achieve success. Here are five inspiring lessons from her that you can apply to your own business.
Don’t Stop Learning
Mary Barra gives learning and development great importance. She makes it a point to learn new skills that are crucial for her job. And since assuming the top role at GM in 2014, she has taken time off from her busy schedule and attended the Harvard Business School Program to further expand her skill set. Since then, Barra’s expertise on global finance, marketing, and sales has been added to her portfolio.
Listen to People you Work With
It’s important to surround yourself with people who will help and challenge you to be the best. But listening to them is just as essential. Barra believes that the need to listen increases when you become a leader, or in her case the CEO. This way, you’ll know when and why you are wrong, so you can take new steps for your company’s improvement. Also for her, “It’s OK to admit what you don’t know. It’s OK to ask for help.”
Work Hard to Achieve Your Dreams
For Mary Barra, having the talent is great but it isn’t enough if you want to change the world. You have to work hard to accomplish anything that you ever imagine. It may seem cliché, but this is one of the most valuable lessons that Barra learned from her parents that she is now using to be an exceptional CEO.
Be Honest and Humble
The GM ignition switch crisis that led to vehicle recalls, deaths, lawsuits, and Senate investigations and hearings proved that Mary Barra is not just a tough female leader. She is also a leader who can admit mistakes and apologize for them, which are signs of honesty and humility.
Of course she received criticisms during the said crisis, but she was also consistently praised. At the end of the day, she emerged as that GM CEO, who is honest and humble with a sincere desire to fix the errors that the company committed.
Treat Others With Dignity and Respect
As GM’s Human Resources department head in 2009, Barra changed its bureaucratic image to a human face with emphasis on personal accountability and responsibility. She continues this principle now that she’s the CEO. She believes that leaders should see each worker as a capable human being, not just a part of the assembly line. If employees are treated with dignity and respect, they feel empowered. As a result, they work better, which is beneficial for the company.
Mary Barra’s expertise, experiences, and leadership skills helped shift GM’s gears to boost profits and continue to become a successful automobile company. Top magazines such as Forbes and Fortune were right to include her in their World’s Most Powerful Women lists. Entrepreneurs like you can definitely learn a lot from her!
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Visit our other blogs featuring female business leaders for our business lessons series:
- Bold Business Lessons from Arianna Huffington
- Inspiring Business Tips from Tory Burch
- Infographic: Business Lessons from Top Women Entrepreneurs
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