School News

Mary Barra Shares Her Journey as a Leader at the Kick-off of Sanger’s New Leadership Dialogue Series

By Megan Martin

Bold ideas take center stage in a new speaker series, called the Leadership Dialogues, launched by the Sanger Leadership Center at the Ross School of Business.

During each event, leaders of Fortune 100 companies, social movements, and politicians will sit down with renowned Michigan Ross faculty members for discussions at the intersection of research and practice across the fields of leadership, organizations, and management. In addition, the global leaders will talk about the advice they have for inspiring teams, weathering crises, and leading with their values.

Mary Barra shares her leadership insights with Michigan Ross community and beyond

In April, Mary Barra, chair and CEO of General Motors, joined Lindy Greer, associate professor for management and organizations and faculty director of Sanger, to discuss Barra’s leadership journey. More than 500 audience members, including Michigan Ross students, faculty, staff, and alumni, along with external executives, attended the event via livestream or in-person  at the business school. 

Throughout the conversation, Barra and Greer discussed piloting a changing business strategy, generating leadership development strategies, and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in organizations. When asked about her approach to leading wide-spanning changes at GM, including the moves to electric and autonomous vehicles as well as efforts to create a more inclusive organization, Barra attributed the impressive progress she’s made to intentionality and open communication. 

“You have to win the hearts and minds of your team. The most effective leaders truly care about their people, want them to have the best, and invest in them,” Barra said. “Communicate so they understand not only what we need to do, but why we need to do it.” 

Greer also touched on the importance of the leadership development process and inquired about Barra’s approach. “At the end of the day, the success of every company comes down to its people,” Barra responded. “Are you attracting the best and the brightest talent and the people who are passionate about what your company does?”

Matt Kocsis, BBA '22/MAcc '23, said the event solidified his belief that leadership is best learned by hearing from those who have experience. 

"These leaders, regardless of their title, can attest to situations when their organizations encountered change and challenges,” Kocsis said. 

You could read a case study about these best and brightest leaders in business, but through the Sanger Leadership Dialogues speaker series, the case study comes to life, allowing you to learn from the stories, lessons, and wisdom that the guests bring to the floor in these dynamic events.

Matt Kocsis, BBA '22/ MAcc '23

The next installment of the Leadership Dialogues speaker series will feature Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever. Polman will be interviewed by Andrew Hoffman, U-M Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise. The event will be held via Zoom on June 29, 2022, and more information on the series is available on the Sanger Leadership Center’s website.

Students in any of Michigan Ross' degree programs can access Sanger's world-class programming and events.

Learn more about the Michigan Ross BBA Program 

Learn more about the Michigan Ross One-Year Master’s Programs

Learn more about the Michigan Ross MBA Programs

Featured Faculty

Lindy Greer
  • Professor for Management and Organizations
  • Michael R. and Mary Kay Hallman Fellow
Andy Hoffman
  • Professor of Management & Organizations
  • Professor of Environment and Sustainability
  • Holcim (US), Inc. Professor of Sustainable Enterprise