7 Leadership Secrets of Henry Ford

Stop for a moment.  Think about this vision:  

Turn workers into customers. To do this you must more than double their wages and give them one hour less in the working day. Could it work? Would you do it?

It did for Henry Ford and is thought to be his greatest contribution to the economy.  

What about selling your product for a modest/realistic profit, so more people are able to afford your products/services rather than pricing for what the market will be forced to bear?

Henry Ford priced his Model T Ford well within reach of the “common man of the day”.  The result?  In just 20 years (from 1908-1928), this car became the most popular car in the United States (and most readily available overseas).  The Model T sales accounted for 50% of all cars sold or about 15 million cars.  

He paid less attention to his competitors and more to his employees.  He inspired his employees to work for the customer, and they did.  Yet his competitors and the media were anything but complimentary for these bold moves. The Wall Street Journal called his plans “an economic crime,” and critics everywhere heaped “Fordism” with equal scorn.

I wonder if there could be a modern day Henry Ford with the many pressures and sometimes fads we face … so much legislative regulation; fear, theft and bullying in the workforce; fads such as:  cutting costs at all costs; technology holds the answer to everything – you just need more of it; off shore and outsource your core bits; stockholders are more valuable than customers, etc.

It would be a very complicated and bold undertaking from anyone.  Yet many ofHenry Ford’s ideas are worth reconsidering.  They might even inspire us to new boldness.  Here are just seven:

1. “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Perhaps this is because we perceive so much risk with making decisions.  My lifetime mentor once told me,  “Never be afraid to make a decision.  You only have to be right 51% of the time to succeed!”  Making decisions – even the most difficult and far reaching is the special responsibility and realm of the most inspiring leaders.  It starts with them “seeing”and articulating the vision for all to embrace.

2. “Vision without execution is just hallucination.”

Something most of us will do well to keep in mind is that although it is difficult to “see” and articulate the vision, it is harder still to get others to buy into the vision.  This is where being inspirational in your leadership abilities makes it possible.  People we lead sense our authenticity and our commitment to them and to the vision.  I remember when the mantra of “customer service” was more a commercial oxymoron — a necessary evil that took time and “diverted” funds from more accepted budget line items.  Yet today the reality of this vision drives most, if not all of us!

3. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

There are too many days when we wonder if our leadership is making a difference.  Ted Turner said, “If you want to know if you’re a leader, turn around and see who is following you.”  If you’ve articulated a vision of value that can also be understood and embraced your staff will be there to support you to it.Taking off INTO the wind is an easily recognisable quality of leaders…well as long as it is taking off into the wind and not into the wind from a wind mill!

4. “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”

To inspire those who work with us toward the vision, means we first “see” the vision, believe it, carefully share it with others, identify constraints to achievement, make course corrections, listen to our staff, monitor, manage and measure the results.  Measuring is to ensure YOU are on the right track, as much as that someone is off the track. (More on the reason for measures from leaders in a future article).

5. “If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The 

only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.”Our education system stands ready to pour an abundance of homogenised and carefully selected bits of information into us to where we are drowning in it.  We can find information on anything – some of which may not even be valuable, (Writing on leadership, for example, could be a concern, as I mentioned before, with 71,000 books already written on the topic, but it remains one of the most popular issue in business today!). 

Leaders know that knowledge does give them a more reliable “sense” of understanding as they filter decisions through the awareness of their observations and experiences.Wisdom does not come from achievement, it comes from adversity and even failure.  And the greatest leaders have failed and filed the learnings from failure away to draw strength from when there is little else left to draw upon.  Money is quickly lost and never has been able to buy happiness…or love.

6. “There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.” 

A wonderful leader in my life once gave me a big coffee mug…I do love my coffee and tea.  It’s black and rather utilitarian looking.  On one side is one of THOSE sayings:  “What would you attempt to do, if you knew you could not fail!”

We all too often bob and weave and duck and hide from our potential.  Probably because we do not take enough time to catch our breath, rest and reflect (See the article in this series “Leadership:  Reflection & Resolution” for more on how important this is.), yet without this we will remain just ordinary. Leaders must be extraordinary!

7. “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get to other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Steven Covey reiterated this thought in his Habit 5:  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Inspirational leaders marry their ability to listen with their innate wisdom, their knowledge, advice from tried, trusted and wise counsellors and advisors and make bold, careful and resolute decisions that move the world into, hopefully, always a better place.

There are seven more quotes by Mr. Ford that I’ve found to share with you next time we meet.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these and will respond with any of your own ideas.  Until next time, it is my pleasure to offer these thoughts for your edification.

Article by Darlene Richard and provided by Customer Services Audit.