The first Henry Ford: a study in personality and business leadership
Henry Ford built a car for the American everyman-putting the market, the method, and the policy together where others failed. The Ford method (Fordizatsiain Russia), introducing the concept of mass production, the assembly line, and lower prices for an ever-widening market, was to assume the stature of an industrial philosophy. Ford built a billion-dollar enterprise, yet in refusing to break with the Model T design from its introduction in 1908 to its withdrawal in 1927, and by assuming despotic control of the Ford Motor Company, he effectively destroyed his own creation. In this book Anne Jardim traces the progression from success to failure by cautiously yet rigorously examining the personality of Henry Ford. "It was Henry Ford who shaped the company," Miss Jardim remarks, "and it is surely valid to examine what shaped Henry Ford." She notes the crucial influence of conflicts in Ford's early history on his style of business leadership, on the precipitation, definition, and attempted resolution of the problems facing his company. The issue of individual personality in business leadership is implicit in the unanswered questions of Ford's biographers, company histories, and in the incomplete evaluations reached by organizational theorists on the structure and functioning of the Ford Motor Company: Why as a self-proclaimed advocate of progress did Ford persist in standardized production of the Model T and refuse to make any fundamental improvement in the car long after its market appeal faded? Why did he "change" from a capable mechanic who commanded the loyalty and best efforts of his subordinates to a vindictive, arrogant, and deeply suspicious man surrounded by "yes" men who bent reality to the Ford model? And what did the Model T symbolize for Ford? The book makes sense of such puzzling shifts and inconsistent behavior in Ford's turbulent career as Miss Jardim observes Ford's fixation on the automobile, the adaptation of his vision to reality, and the consequences once the "perfect" car had reached the people. The public Henry Ford had diverse interests and singular opinions, and the book describes his Peace Ship, senatorial nomination and thoughts of running for president, his constant preoccupation with the farmer and development of the tractor, the launching of his journal, the Dearborn Independent,coinciding with a long and vicious anti-Semitic campaign, and his battles with the unions, with Wall Street, and with the New Deal-any authority that challenged his own. Underlying all of these elements the author finds a consistent pattern of motivation and action. Her analysis of this pattern sheds light on the Ford Motor Company's growth and its decline, its managerial structure and its strategy; her study defines a style of leadership, which, although unique, may well apply to the behavior of other men and the course of other large organizations.
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