Mary Barra’s quest to move GM to a manufacturer of electric cars has captured the attention of automobile aficionados, green-business advocates, and leaders of all types who have to admire Mary’s toughness in moving forward despite the overwhelming obstacles in her path.
A decade ago, no one would have guessed that GM would be the company poised to lead America into the future. At a time when business book readers seem endlessly fascinated by soaring tech giants like Amazon and Netflix, and ill-fated startups like WeWork and Theranos, why is it important to put the spotlight back on 112-year-old GM? Because Charlie Wilson’s quip from 1952 is still true: What’s good for GM is still good for America, and vice versa. America needs to transition to a new era of clean energy and environmentally sustainable transportation. We also need to adapt to a world with far fewer assembly-line jobs, but far more skilled jobs for people who can design, build, and operate robots and other high-tech machines. GM’s attempt to lead those transitions is as important as it is dramatic.
Equally compelling is the story of GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, who against all odds took the reins at GM in 2014. Since that time, she has attempted to reinvent a century-old company and equip it for the biggest change in transportation since the internal combustion engine replaced the horse. In the process, she has been ripping out GM traditions by the roots—and taking flak from all sides. Her plan is to make GM—the company famed for the gas-burning Corvette, hulking Cadillac Escalade, and carbon-spewing Silverado pickup—purely electric and clean by 2035.
She may not be as wealthy as Jeff Bezos, as brash as Elon Musk, or as powerful as Mark Zuckerberg, but Mary Barra is just as important as any of them. And as one of the most powerful female executives in the world, she is overdue for an in-depth look at her forward-thinking vision, her approach to leadership, and her accomplishments against the odds.
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