The new president of the UAW is known to be a tough bargainer, a straight arrow and a workaholic. But Ron Gettelfinger now must be a leader.
During the UAW's early days, its leaders instinctively knew how to reach out to people in and outside the union's orbit. Walter Reuther was a national figure who tirelessly promoted the union's agenda.
Thanks to Reuther, UAW innovations such as pensions, company-paid health care and cost-of-living allowances were accepted widely throughout corporate America.
Leonard Woodcock championed other key programs such as 30-and-out retirement, and Doug Fraser eloquently stated the case for Chrysler's bailout.
Steve Yokich -- the UAW's outgoing president who chose Gettelfinger as his successor -- did not fit that mold.
Yokich was a savvy union politician who understood what his membership wanted and got it for them by using his skill as a negotiator. He seldom took the UAW's case to the public, preferring to preach to the converted - his own union membership.
That is no longer enough because the president of the UAW must play a larger role.
Gettelfinger faces a serious challenge. His membership is made up mostly of workers from the Big 3 and their suppliers, and the Big 3 are steadily losing market share and jobs.
He must engineer a win-win solution that enables the Big 3 to compete for sales and market share. He also must protect the jobs and economic status of his members who work at the Big 3 and major suppliers such as Delphi Corp. and Visteon Corp.
Representing the workers of the Big 3 has become far more complex, and Gettelfinger must develop a broad vision and express it forcefully.
The task won't be easy, and Gettelfinger has been media-shy. But as the new UAW president, he must lead the union's efforts at the bargaining table, on the factory floor and in the public forum.