It’s the first week of the month which usually means we at Concept Communications are busy compiling press coverage reports, calculating expenses and generally reflecting on the past 30 days or so and what we’ve accomplished for our clients in that time. As it turns out, January 2011 was an epic month for us and our accounts, filled with international trade shows like CES and MIDEM, press conferences and media events, and opportunities for us to meet and/or listen to high level executives in the various industries in which our clients play.
It occurred to me that of all the influential people I’ve had the fortune of encountering over the past month –including celebrities like 50 Cent and the heads of the digital divisions of all the major record labels – it might seem unlikely that the one, very brief moment I had with Alan Mulally, the President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, made the biggest impression on me.
It happened when Darlene and I were at a large media event at CES in an area set aside for Ford and its partners – representing our client Gracenote, a Ford technology partner for years. We were suddenly told Mr. Mulally may be coming by, and moments later I noticed him out of the corner of my eye. What immediately struck me was that although he is not a particularly large man, his vivaciousness, his confidence and just his sheer *energy* made him an enormous presence in what was literally a hotel ballroom.
And, when he approached our group and he looked at me, I felt like the only person in a crowd of almost 1,000 people. He looked me square in the eye, he shook my hand warmly, he asked me questions, he made funny comments – none of which I can remember, but it doesn’t matter because for one minute, I felt significant, I felt special, I felt acknowledged by the leader of one of the most important businesses in the United States. He asked our group if we wanted a picture and then stood next to us and put his arms out. At that moment, it felt as though we were posing for a team photograph for the yearbook. A winning team. A positive team. A team that was coming off a phenomenal season and was strong, in shape, and ready to do it all over again. It made me proud to be associated, if even remotely, with the Ford brand.
How did this happen? How did this man I’d never met make me feel this way over the course of what can’t have been more than three minutes? Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. . . The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert.” I think the secret lies in Mr. Mulally’s sincerity. In his genuine interest in the American people and what they want. And I thank him for reminding me that in life, not just in business, success lies in one’s ability to make meaningful connections, one person at a time.