The new chief executive officer of the second largest US automaker seems young by corporate standards, but the truth is he took the position with the experience and learned lessons of any seasoned manager, after 26 years with the carmaker.
Speaking recently at the Fuel: Detroit leadership conference, the chief executive said he was just like many other ambitious Harvard business graduates initially, seeking immediately the next position up the chain of command. “Early in my career I was always thinking about how do I get to the next level,” commented Fields. The leadership conference counted him among the speakers, next to business leaders, journalists, celebrities and elected officials, such as Earvin (Magic) Johnson, blogger/entrepreneur Seth Godin, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Governor Rick Snyder.
Fields has in the mean time graduated another school – the one needed to become Ford’s chief executive officer. He says the road left him with a briefcase full of experience and lessons to the woes ahead in a corporate world where even a company that has more than 100 years of experience needs to act just like any startup, seeking an edge when it comes to innovation, speed as well as willingness to assume chances and then, if they turn to be mistakes – move and learn from them. Fields left Harvard back in 1989 and while most of his peers took the investment-banking road he went to Detroit to work for Ford. Anointed as Alan Mulally’s successor, Fields worked alongside the previous Ford boss for eight years and assisted him in developing the automaker’s strategy – the One Ford plan.