The Leadership of Henry Ford

"The great need of the world has always been for leaders. With more leaders we could have more industry. More industry, more employment and comfort for all." –Henry Ford Introduction Henry Ford was the creator of one of the largest automobile manufacturing companies, influencing society in a number of ways and forever changing the face of the auto industry.

One of the reasons for his success was the high priority he placed on his employees’ satisfaction. While Ford had much strength he also had weaknesses that held the company back and threatened to destroy it at times. Ford was a notable member of society and a great peace promoter. Ford’s business style and leadership skills throttled him to success. Background

Henry Ford was born in 1863 to farmers in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford grew up living on the farm and attending school, neither of which he was satisfied with (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). At the age of 16 his dissatisfaction led him to leave home and travel to Detroit to find work (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”).

He found work at Edison Illuminating Company under Thomas Edison who constantly encouraged him to toy with engines and be creative (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). Ford’s tinkering led to the Quadricycle and eventually his first motor company, Detroit Automobile Co. in 1899 (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). The Detroit Automobile Co. failed shortly after it began and he created a new company, Henry Ford, Co., which lasted about one year (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”).

Ford turned to racing and managed to attract investors with $28,000 to begin his new company, Ford Motor in 1903 (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). The auto industry was young and robust at the time (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). Most companies were just starting with more and more entering the industry every week (“The Great Leaders Series”). Competition was fierce and the threat of new entrants was very high (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”).

Ford ran the company until 1919 when he retired, letting his son Edsel take control (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). Edsel died in 1943 and Henry came out of retirement until 1947 when he retired for the final time (“Henry Ford: The Innovator”). Treatment of Employees

Henry Ford created a healthy, efficient, and attractive workplace so that he could retain his employees and attract the best. When Ford learned that his turnover rate was becoming a problem, he increased the pay rate to $5 and decreased the shift length to eight hours (“The Great Leaders Series”).

This was unheard of in society at the time (“The Great Leaders Series”). Many people criticized Ford for this change but Ford knew that by decreasing the shift length, he could create three shifts (“The Great Leaders Series”). Creating three shifts would allow the factories to work around the clock without tiring the employees extensively (“The Great Leaders Series”). By making the process more efficient, Ford decreased his costs and was able to make up for the increased employee wages and even was able to lower the cost of the car for consumers (“The Great Leaders Series”).

Henry Ford believed in some form of the Helzberg model. He understood the importance of work and how without work, man cannot reach fulfillment (Wood). Ford believed we were created for work and constantly challenged his employees to work harder and achieve more (Wood).

Ford was concerned for the welfare of his workers and created a department of welfare sociology in his company (“Innovator, Industrialist, Outdoorsman”). Part of this department ensured that the higher wages he paid his employees were not being used to buy alcohol or cigarettes (“Innovator, Industrialist, Outdoorsman”). This policy kept his workers healthy and thus more efficient.

Henry Ford valued his employees and showed that by paying extremely high wages compared to the industry average. He created a healthy work environment and was able to retain his current employees while attracting the best engineers and mechanics from all over the region to his workforce. Henry Ford proved that as a leader if you show that you value each of your workers you will create a loyal workforce. Employees care about more than just high salary, they want to be a part of an organization that places value on their skills and allows them to be part of a team. By following this strategy you will be able to attract a more numerous and higher quality workforce. Strengths

Henry Ford believed that self-belief was essential (Wood) . He preached about self-belief to his employees and made an effort to hire those that knew no limitations and did not have the word impossible in their vocabulary (Wood). Henry Ford daily challenged his employees to be creative and think outside the box (Wood).

The assembly line, Ford’s legacy and greatest innovation, greatly improved and forever changed the auto industry (“The Great Leaders Series”). The moveable conveyor belt cut manufacturing time from half a day to 93 minutes (“The Great Leaders Series”). Henry Ford also changed the way cars were sold by introducing a network of roughly 7,000 dealerships across the country (“The Great Leaders Series”).

Ford was known for his strict, dictatorial style of management, he made most decisions for the company and even was known to monitor employees’ life outside of work (“The Great Leaders Series”). Even when the public and investors criticized his work and tried to influence him to go a certain way he held fast and proved them wrong (“The Great Leaders Series”). Weaknesses

Ford’s single-handed, dictatorship was also one of his greatest weaknesses (“The Great Leaders Series”). His stubbornness and dictatorial style almost brought the company to ruin when he refused to allow innovation on his prized model T (“The Great Leaders Series”). His cars were being surpassed by the competition but Ford refused to update his model (“The Great Leaders Series”).

Another weakness was his anti-Semitic beliefs (“Anti-Semitism”). Ford was a great admirer of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorial style and thus modeled his leadership style after his role model (“Anti-Semitism”). This mentality caused Ford to lose a large market of Semitic and pro-Semitic consumers. His competitors gained an advantage not because their product was superior, but because of conflicting values. A leader should avoid letting personal beliefs and values conflict with business. International Strategy

After World War II ended, Ford Motor Co. was among the first companies to begin producing again (Wood). Ford’s innovation and vision for the future led him to be able to move into 33 global markets overseas before its competitors even began thinking about international markets (Wood).

Henry Ford was a promoter of peace (Wood) . Although this may seem to conflict with his anti-Semitic views, Ford was adamant that international peace was necessary (Wood). He believed that through cooperation and international trade we could achieve this long sought after goal (Wood). Henry Ford was pressured by the president to run for senator but he preferred to be a peace senator (Wood). Working under Henry Ford

According to some subordinates of Henry Ford, working in the factories was “living hell” (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”). The auto-manufacturer was very anti-union and the working conditions difficult (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”). The employees were always pushed to go faster but to produce perfect products (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”).

The dictatorial style of Ford was very strict and difficult to manage, but despite the physical and mental toll the employees bared, they wore their Ford badges with pride and honor (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”). Working at Ford demanded respect and they would often wear their badges to church and formal events (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”).

Many employees describe the working conditions as hot, dusty, and noisy with vibrations that made you consider finding another job (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”). Some employees mentioned that after an eight hour shift workers would get on the streetcar to go home and fall asleep immediately because they were so physically exhausted (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”) . However others described the factories as kept so white and clean that if an employee was chewing tobacco and spit on the ground it was noticeable immediately and the employee would be reprimanded (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”) . The witness accounts on this subject vary greatly (“Henry Ford: Witness Biographies”).

Although the work was hard and some believed the conditions to be less than  desirable, the employees respected Ford’s strict policies and were loyal to the company no matter what. They were proud to work for one of the most innovative leaders in the world. Leadership Implications

Henry Ford had a dictatorial leadership style. In terms of Goleman’s situational leadership styles Henry Ford used a combination of Coercive and Affiliative. Ford can be described as coercive because he demanded immediate compliance. He did not stand for imperfect work or lazy employees. His factories were described as stressful and strictly structured. The workforce was mechanistically organized and everyone had a specific place. This style of leadership conflicts with America’s low power-distance status but at that time Ford seemed to be able to make it successful.

However, Ford was able to retain his employees with an Affiliative style. He valued his workers and therefore paid them well and created shorter work days. This developed employee loyalty and satisfaction.

While researching Henry Ford, it can be learned that his strict, dictatorship and innovative vision was the reason for his success, but it was also his greatest weakness. His stubbornness and self-pride prohibited him from taking advice from others and realizing that his products needed improvement. His leadership style did not allow him to gather opinions and advice on decisions from employees who were also his greatest and most loyal consumers. Conclusion

Henry Ford is one of the greatest leaders in American history. He was an industrialist, innovator, peace promoter, and a man with great dedication. He was very successful and changed the auto industry and American society in numerous ways. Although his personal values and personality challenged the success of his company at times, he managed to keep the Ford Motor Co. in a good position and left it in the hands of his son Edsel when he retired. As a leader Ford had both strengths and weaknesses but his strengths overshadow the weak points. Henry Ford is a great American leader that can be looked upon for inspiration.

Works Cited

  1. "Anti-Semitism." The Perilous Fight. PBS, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
  2. "The Great Leaders Series: Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company." N.p., 04 Nov. 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
  3. "Henry Ford: The Innovator – Background Reading." Department of Natural Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
  4. "Henry Ford: Witness Biographies." American Experience. PBS, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
  5. "Innovator, Industrialist, Outdoorsman: Henry Ford Started It All." Heritage., n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.
  6. Wood, Charles W. "Ford Makes Amazing Revelations." Henry Ford Revelations 1928 Interview. Machine-History, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.