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6 Leadership Tips From Ford CEO Alan Mulally

Tickers in this article: F BA

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Let's just call it "Alan being Alan."

Ford's (F) ebullient CEO, Alan Mulally, is a master of the warm-hearted gesture, of taking a little extra time to make people feel important, enthusiastic and ready to follow him anywhere. At Ford, which he joined in 2006, that course has involved a journey from an economically distressed company, habitually losing money, with debt rated seven levels below investment grade and every asset mortgaged, to emergence in 2011 as a profitable, glowing symbol of the revival of American manufacturing.

Ford CEO, Alan Mulally

In the case of Oakland A's baseball player and potential Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez, the widely used phrase "Manny being Manny" refers to a legion of incidents manifesting relentless obliviousness to his surroundings.

In the case of Oakland, Calif., native and celebrity CEO Mulally, the phrase "Alan being Alan" connotes a string of anecdotes in which he engages with people, not only those who are members of the world's wealthy leadership class, but also with everybody else he encounters as he glides through life, answering questions with a smile and a "you betcha."

Many of those he encounters come away with stories. Rebecca Lindland, director of research at HIS Global Insight, said that several years ago in a conversation with Mulally, she mentioned that her mother was pleased that Ford was bringing cars with a European feel, such as the Focus, to the U.S. "He said 'What is your mother's address?' and the next thing I knew my parents had a handwritten letter from Alan and some Ford goodies," Lindland said. "Alan always has a willingness to learn one more thing about you."

Steve Parks, lead aerodynamics engineer for the Ford Fusion , recalled that early last year he was at work in the Dearborn, Mich., design studio when Mulally entered with a group to have his picture taken.

"I was working in my cubicle and I wanted to see what he looked like in person, so I looked at him, and he looked at me, and he took a right turn and walked over and said 'Hi, I'm Alan Mulally,'" Parks said. "I said 'I know. I'm Steve Parks. I'm working on aerodynamics for the Fusion.' He said 'aerodynamics, I love aerodynamics,' and he gave me a handshake and a hug. He was involved in aerodynamics at Boeing(BA) , and he started firing off questions, and we were talking about incorporating concepts from Boeing." The two men talked for 20 minutes.

"I have met many people," Parks said. "You can warm up to him and you can tell he is interested in the technologies and the people. He is a genuinely warm person."

In my own case, when I visited Dearborn last week for an interview, Mulally bounded into an outer room to greet me, spent five minutes asking questions about my book on Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo, then related how he had journeyed from Kansas to Brooklyn as a boy to visit family members and to see Furillo and the Dodgers play in Ebbets Field. His father had been born and raised in Brooklyn.