Sometime in the 1910s, a man, in his late forties and originally from Greenfield Township, Michigan, was doing the rounds of a large manufacturing plant in Dearborn, Detroit. He knew every worker there. He knew about the specific illnesses of their ageing dependents, about the bereavements they had suffered in the last few years, about their children, the school they went to and a lot more. While on this inspection stroll, a little something lying on the floor caught his attention. He bent down, reached for the ground, picked up a small screw and asked for the man who had dropped it there. Soon a junior fitter presented himself and said that while he was sorry for being callous, he did not quite understand why misplacing a small screw was such a big deal for a large company. “You see young man…when I started this company, I did not even have this,” replied Henry Ford. Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company, one of the few large manufacturing firms to survive the Great Depression. He was the father of the assembly line technique of mass production and was, in a way, the harbinger of welfare capitalism with the $5 per day wage that he announced in 1914. “Don’t find fault, find a remedy,” he would often say. It is a tragedy not just for American capital enterprise but also for the vision of this man that Ford corporate bonds were downgraded to junk status in 2005 and that the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013. The Ford instance shows that even behemoths cannot sustain growth based on past laurels and legends. Leadership and vision need to find the right successors. Vision needs to be sustained. That is what sets leaders apart from megalomaniacs. Martin Chemers, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz, defines leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” But in today’s corporate world, where the contours of the map are ever-changing, leadership is also about finding the next generation of drivers of the engine. Leadership quotient, that is why, needs to be judged by the posterity and not by contemporaries. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” In wholehearted agreement with Peter Drucker, we bring you some of the most prominent drivers of business in the largest continent. They have, and not single-handedly, built up their business and given it the strongest fundaments. So leadership is also about having the right person in the right job. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Each of the leaders featured in this issue reaffirms Steve Jobs’ point.


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