Research Outline

Listening with Impact - Stories


To provide eight stories about listening with impact, evenly balanced across time, gender, history, and context across the US, UK, and the rest of the world.

Early Findings

Mary Barra

  • Mary Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors (GM). She was elected chair of the board in 2016 and has served as the company's CEO since 2014. She is the first female CEO of an automobile company.
  • Barra has been praised for being a great leader and driving inclusivity in the workplace due to her excellent listening skills.
  • According to reports, during meetings, Barra asks for and listens to every opinion in the room. She then analyzes the diverse responses to gauge the efficacy of the ideas before providing feedback.
  • Her style of leadership thus provides an enabling environment where employees can air their views. Her co-workers and those she mentors applaud her listening skills and approachability.
  • One crisis that Barra faced as the CEO of GM was the deaths of 124 people due to a faulty ignition switch problem in its cars. The company had to recall 2.6 million vehicles, as it was leading to loss of life. In resolving this problem,
  • Barra did not follow the company's traditional method of handling such issues, such as "minimizing the importance of the problem, fighting any associated lawsuits, deflecting media assertions, etc." Instead, she called for a town hall meeting, seeing the problem as an opportunity to drive change in what she perceived to be a cultural problem in the company.
  • In 2018, GM ranked first on the 2018 Global Report on Gender Equality. GM was one of two global businesses with no gender pay gap.
  • "Under Barra's leadership, GM envisions a world with zero crashes, to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity – time."