Cults of Personality: Fables of the Automobile Manufacturing Industry

  • Sandford BorinsEmail author
  • Beth Herst


Automobile manufacturing is a highly complex activity, particularly subject to external, macroeconomic, and geopolitical factors. Its narratives, however, center on transformative CEOs. It is a structure that dates back to the earliest years of the industry with the representation of Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan as exemplary business leaders. This chapter analyzes turnaround and debacle texts to explore the function of leader-centered narratives. Using the construct of the attribution to leadership it charts the ways in which heroicized CEOs like Lee Iacocca, Allan Mulally, Elon Musk and, paradoxically, conspicuous failures like GM’s Roger Smith and Rick Wagoner, serve to reaffirm the agency of the individual in an increasingly impersonal, globalized, and corporatized world.


Leadership Turnaround Complexity Manufacturing Electric car 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor of Strategic ManagementUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Narrative and Innovation IncorporatedTorontoCanada

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