Humility, Love & Service

President's Strategic Initiative Fund > Humility, Love & Service

Humility, Love & Service

Iconic leader, trustee emeritus, Alan Mulally reflects on ‘Working Together’ to create value for the greater good.

By Colin Fly Lettering by Angela Southern

This was one of many lessons Alan Mulally learned from his parents, Lauraine and Charles.

“It was education and service from the day I was born,” says Alan, with his parents reminding him daily of the values that were part of his formation as a person and a leader. “I had this tremendous love from my mom and dad. They were the best examples I could ever have.”

Alan also was deeply moved by the Rev. Dr. Dale Turner of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and he set off to incorporate the values of humility, love and service leadership in his life.

Alan Mulally with his mother, Lauraine

Those lessons inspired and motivated Alan. He rose from humble beginnings to contribute to the design of every Boeing commercial airplane and lead the development of Boeing’s 777 airplane, the world’s largest twinjet and the most popular wide-body airplane in history.

Then, he helped save Ford Motor Company from the brink of insolvency through a set of collaborative leadership service skills that is the foundation of his “Working Together” leadership and management system that he created and nurtured. Alan’s leadership led Boeing to be the No. 1 global commercial airplane company and Ford to be the No. 1 automobile brand in the United States.

Alan’s service — and his steadfast belief that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice — makes him a widely sought leadership teacher, coach, consultant and speaker worldwide.

His service also led him to Mayo Clinic, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 2017 until 2022, which ultimately led to his family’s philanthropic support of Mayo Clinic and the President’s Strategic Initiative Fund.

The President’s Strategic Initiative Fund is focused on a group of strategic priorities meant to continuously improve healthcare, and it allows the president and CEO maximum flexibility in investing in the most meaningful innovations to serve unmet patient needs.

“My mission is service for the greater good,” Alan says. “I was inspired and motivated to learn that the Mayo brothers created Mayo Clinic initially with philanthropic, technical and financial contributions as well as their leadership service skills that were similar to the ‘Working Together’ system.”

THE PRESIDENT’S STRATEGIC INITIATIVE FUND at Mayo Clinic is a powerful precision instrument in the hands of President and CEO Gianrico Farrugia, M.D.

It allows for dollars to be swiftly directed — at Dr. Farrugia’s discretion — to the most urgent projects across Mayo Clinic.

In the past two years, the fund has made possible healthcare transformation through the creation and expansion of the Cancer CARE Beyond Walls program, which recently celebrated a milestone — successfully providing patients with chemotherapy in the comfort of their own homes in a pilot program. The fund also supports research into new RNA therapies for previously incurable diseases, and it helped create artificial intelligence models that will result in earlier detection of disease and more cures as well as increase the comfort of the patient experience.

The President’s Strategic Initiative Fund empowers bold actions by Dr. Farrugia. This ensures that Mayo Clinic continues to be a world leader in healthcare, creating and advancing the latest treatments and technologies for the benefit of patients. — KATHLEEN HULL

Alan's Formation

Alan’s formation started with a very humble beginning. “All I really wanted was a pair of Levi’s and Weejun shoes so I could fit in, and maybe get a car and attend the University of Kansas in my hometown, which was my window to the world to serve,” Alan says of his upbringing in Kansas. “I realized my parents’ values were so right: To serve is to live.”

Alan’s service started with delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, bagging and checking groceries, constructing homes, and working and supporting farmers and ranchers. In college, he served his professors while studying engineering at the University of Kansas, and while studying leadership and management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Alan met his wife, Nicki, at the University of Kansas, and they have been happily married for 54 years. They have raised five children and have been blessed with five grandchildren.

Alan served at Boeing for 37 years, including as Boeing executive vice president, president of Boeing Information Space and Defense Systems, and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and at Ford Motor Company for eight years as president and CEO. Through it all, he believed there were three elements critical for the success of one’s life and any company — humility, love and service.

Alan served in many roles at Boeing, including president and CEO of Boeing Commerical Airplanes. (Photo by Susan Walsh, Associated Press)
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Alan Mulally’s leadership formation, development and service journey is the foundation of his “Working Together” Leadership and Management System with its Connected Culture of Love by Design. It consists of these axioms rooted in his upbringing in Lawrence, Kansas.

  • The purpose of life is to love and be loved … in that order.
  • To serve is to live.
  • Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
  • By working together with others, you can make the most positive contribution to the most people.
  • Expect the unexpected and expect to deal with it … positively.
  • Lifelong learning and continuous improvement.
  • Respect everyone … we are all creatures of God and worthy to be loved.
  • Develop one integrated life that is your life’s work of service.
  • It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Lifelong Learning

Alan’s lifelong learning contributed to his continuous improvement of his humility, love and service. One of his most important learnings came from studying other companies making significant contributions for the greater good.

Alan studied Mayo Clinic thoroughly and in detail. “Mayo Clinic is one of my heroes for their service that benefited all their stakeholders and the greater good,” Alan says. “I just couldn’t get enough of understanding how Mayo Clinic really worked in detail.”

That led to a chance to meet John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic’s then-president and CEO, which eventually led to an invitation for Alan to join Mayo Clinic’s Board of Trustees. The relationship blossomed further under the leadership of Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., Mayo’s current president and CEO.

“When I was asked to join, I said yes immediately,” Alan recalls. “I have consulted with over 200 CEOs and their teams, and I’ve never been more aligned with any organization than with Mayo Clinic.”

While on the board, Alan was asked his thoughts on how to enhance Mayo Clinic’s services and productivity and continue Mayo Clinic’s top-ranked care, education and research programs.

“While I loved sharing my thoughts with Mayo Clinic from my leadership service, can you imagine how neat it was to learn even more from the Mayo Clinic team?” Alan says.

Following his career at Boeing, Alan joined Ford Motor Company, serving as president and CEO from 2006 to 2014. (Photo by Charlie Riedel, Associated Press)
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Giving Forward

The Mulallys supported Mayo Clinic’s compelling mission through a gift to the President’s Strategic Initiative Fund. The family also supports Mayo Clinic’s Poverello Foundation, which helps people who cannot otherwise pay for medical and surgical care. For their generosity, Mayo Clinic recognizes the Mulally family as Principal Benefactors.

“Clearly, Mayo Clinic is one of the most phenomenal organizations I’ve ever known for many reasons. And it also is the reason our family decided to philanthropically support Mayo Clinic,” Alan says. “I don’t know of any other organization someone could support with better service of hope and healing.”

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