This month, Mary Barra succeeded Dan Akerson as General Motor’s newest Chief Executive Officer. Barra, who rose through the ranks, is the highest-ranking female executive in the auto industry.

Her 33-year career at GM (IW 500/5) spanned multiple departments and jobs – from executive assistant to communications and human resources, and, prior to her CEO appointment, Barra was Executive Vice President in Global Product Development and Global Purchasing & Supply Chain.

For those who know Barra’s leadership style and work ethic, it came as no surprise when the board unanimously approved her as the chief executive officer. Simply put, she embodies the traits and behaviors of an inclusive leader. Anecdotal evidence provides a window into how Mary Barra has used inclusive leadership to garner employee advocates and improve business operations.


Quoted in Washington Post, a fellow colleague and GM executive notes her “consensus approach.”  In fact, she’s been known to conduct town hall meetings to seek input on projects. 

But she knows when to step in and make the final decision. “At the end of the day, the decision has to be made. If we don’t have complete unanimity, I have no qualms about making it,” Barra said to the Los Angeles Times. “I want tension in a constructive way to make sure we evaluate things from every angle.”

Openness to a Wide Range Input

According to several sources, Barra has always created an inclusive environment where employees feel they can voice their opinions. Once she receives diverse input, she gauges the efficacy of all ideas and provides feedback. Co-workers and mentors have praised Barra’s listening skills and her approachability.