How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

GM's new CEO Whitacre: Uncompromising

December 1, 2009: 6:11 PM ET

"When Ed Whitacre decides, it's not negotiable. If he decides against you, you're done."

--Coca-Cola (KO) exec Wendy Clark, about General Motors' (GM) new CEO, whom she worked for when he headed AT&T (ATT). Today, the GM board ousted CEO Fritz Henderson, who was in the post just eight months, and installed Whitacre, GM's chairman, as the new chief executive.

No doubt, Whitacre had a key role in the power shift.

And hearing Clark talk about the man, you understand that anyone working under him is on a short leash. Clark, a rising star who is SVP of Integrated Marketing and Communications at Coke and previously headed marketing for Whitacre at AT&T, spoke about his unusual leadership style last month at a Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner event in Atlanta. "He doesn't talk much. He listens intently. He surrounds himself with experts who know everything," Clark said. She calls Whitacre "the greatest mentor" she's ever had.

Her view of Whitacre at GM? "If Ed can't fix it, no one can fix it," she says.--Patricia Sellers

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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