Jim Hackett, Ford's new CEO, was a backup center on the University of Michigan football team in the mid-1970s, playing for legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler. In 1994, when Hackett was named chief executive of the office furniture maker Steelcase, Schembechler lavished praise on his former player.
"He was a real good student," said Schembechler, who died in 2006. "He was the kind of guy you could almost predict would be successful. He's a guy who everybody loves and respects. He's never late for a meeting, and even though he never played a lot, he always accepted the role of a leader. There was no player we had that was tougher or smarter than Jim Hackett."
Twenty years later, Hackett retired from Steelcase after helping reinvent the American workspace. At the time, he offered reporters some thoughts about his future. For one thing, he said he would never write a book.
"No business book helped me," he told a reporter. "What helped me was reading more about science and philosophy; things that weren't business to help me triangulate. I don't want to break my own rule."
Hackett also said at the time that despite his star reputation in Silicon Valley, he was no techie.
"The myth about me is that I loved technology. It wasn't that at all. It was that I saw it as a shaping force. I saw it altering us in ways we had to get ready for, and it got translated to that: Because I talked about it all the time, I must be a techie. My passion was more about human behavior being altered by technology."
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