Fortune Magazine has named General Motors CEO Mary Barra their ‘Crisis Manager of the Year’ and it’s hard to imagine them even considering anyone else for the distinction. Barra has led GM through one of the automaker’s most challenging times in her 12 months as CEO, but managed to remain honest, humble and seemingly sincere through the ordeal, Fortune says.
GM, Barra and former GM general counsel Michael Milikin all came under heavy criticism from the American public and congress after it was discovered GM waited 11 years to recall cars it knew had faulty ignition switches. Millions of cars were affected by the fault, which has so far been linked to 42 fatalities and several serious injuries.
Despite being at the helm of the company during one of its darkest moments, Barra has managed to look better and better throughout the recall crisis. Barra maintained her reputation by not trying to move past the recall crisis, but addressing it directly. Whereas most CEOs would attempt to sweep the problem under the rug, Barra says she wants it to serve as a reminder of what happens when people don’t do their job correctly. She wants to use it as a way to better the company.
Another factor working in favor of Barra’s reputation was her decision to bring in compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, who also managed compensation claims for the Sept. 11 attacks and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. GM gave Feinberg free rein to compensate families of those injured or killed in faulty GM cars and said it won’t challenge his decisions. The compensation fund will be open through to the end of January.
Fortune says Barra seems to genuinely care about those injured or killed in GM cars and is actively trying to ensure a similar situation doesn’t happen again. Barra hasn’t hid from criticism or the media and may have saved an “American icon” of a company from heading down another dark road. If that doesn’t earn you “Crisis Manager of the Year,” were not sure what will.