Chief Executive Leadership Institute Honors Mary T. Barra with Legend in Leadership Award

Mary T. Barra, chairman and chief executive of General Motors Company, accepted the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute’s Legend in Leadership Award on September 24 at a ceremony at the Yale CEO Caucus in Washington, D.C.

The award was to chairman Barra, among other leaders on Monday presented to Barra by Caucus organizer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management. He commented, “Mary Barra has GM in her DNA. She worked in GM for 33 years—starting as an 18-year-old co-op student working on the factory floor—before being named CEO in 2013. Her father worked for GM for almost 40 years as a tool-and-die maker, and Mary went to college at what was then called the General Motors Institute. She held a series of manufacturing, engineering, and senior staff positions, including plant manager, global HR, and global manufacturing engineer. In the aftermath of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, she led the revitalization of GM’s product development process, resulting in the launch of celebrated new products, the delivery of record product quality ratings, and a dramatic improvement in customer satisfaction.

“Barra led the company through a product-safety crisis she inherited on her first month on the job in January 2014, when an ignition-switch defect led to many deaths in earlier years,” Sonnenfeld continued. “Through toughness, transparency, competence, and putting her A-team talent on this challenge as a top priority, she restored and enhanced public trust. She cut unprofitable businesses to invest in the firm’s future. On the frontiers of autonomous driving, she has sparked profound strategic, technological, and cultural change. Last year in October, she announced a bold new vision targeting: zero accidents, zero emissions, and zero congestion. With strong financial performance, it is no wonder that both Fortune and Forbes have ranked her at the top of the most influential women leaders in the world.”

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