Ed Whitacre, former CEO of AT&T and GM, teams up with writer Leslie Cauley on this entertaining, informative autobiography. Under Whitacre’s management, Southwestern Bell became AT&T, and GM traveled from bankruptcy to profitability within 16 months. Filled with anecdotes and asides, this is no ordinary business book. Pithy phrases defining his basic management principles pepper Whitacre’s self-effacing voice and his easy-to-read style as he outlines relevant lessons for managers. Whitacre insists that companies succeed more often due to employees’ energy and collaboration than to managers’ decisions. getAbstract recommends his stories and insights to all managers and those who want to manage. Everyone can learn from the man who saved GM.


The GM Mess

Ed Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, became general manager of General Motors (GM) in 2009 at the request of the White House. GM insiders believed that he shouldn’t worry about the company’s long descent to bankruptcy, halted only by a $50 billion government bailout. When Whitacre inquired about executives’ responsibilities, chains of command and organizational structure, he found that GM had horrible management.

Once top dog in the US market – with 50% market share in 1960 – GM began a steady decline fed by poorly designed automobiles, recessions, rising gas prices and growing foreign competition. Its market share dropped to 22%. GM spent its cash reserves and was bankrupt; its stock was worthless. Amid the turmoil of the financial crisis that started in 2008 Washington bailed GM out to avoid closing it, which would have obliterated a million jobs directly and eight million through fallout.

Whitacre was not a car man; he took the job at age 67 as a public service. His one condition was that he would make all the important decisions. Only $6.7 billion of the $50 billion in government TARP funding arrived as a loan. The United States bought a 61...

About the Authors

Ed Whitacre, former chairman and CEO of AT&T and General Motors, served on the boards of Exxon, Burlington Northern and Anheuser-Busch. Former Wall Street Journal staff member Leslie Cauley writes on telecommunications for USA Today.

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