In the new Detroit, it's all about the CEO, all about having the right guy in command at the right time.
We are in the era of the outsider hero.
The relative calm at Ford Motor Co. these days is attributed to Alan Mulally's arrival in September 2006.
Chrysler Group's future is bound up in the style and personality of Sergio Marchionne, who as an outsider transformed Fiat and now tries to do the same in Auburn Hills.
The board of General Motors Co. wants a Mulally or Marchionne of its own. The company never has really had someone like that. That's why Fritz Henderson had to go.
Henderson was an insider, a GM lifer. The board wants a superman.
True, Henderson was a different kind of insider. He spent much of his career overseas fixing GM's Asia-Pacific and European businesses. He gained a reputation as a fast-moving, somewhat unconventional turnaround specialist before coming to Detroit in 2006 as CFO.
But Rick Wagoner was once a smart gate-crasher from overseas operations, too. Eventually, GM's Detroit culture grinds you down and takes over your reputation.
Although GM did not specifically rule out promoting from within, it is clear the new board wants to find a little magic out there somewhere. It needs a phe-nom.
That doesn't mean bringing in an illustrious auto industry star, a Jim Press. Whoever takes over from acting CEO Ed Whitacre likely will be someone we've never heard of.
Mulally was all but unknown to the auto industry when Bill Ford snared him from the No. 2 spot at Boeing. Marchionne was an even bigger mystery when he moved to Fiat in 2006 from SGS Group, the Swiss inspections, auditing and certification services company.
Henderson was way more than a just bean-counter, but there was no evidence that he was a true revenue builder.
In former times, revenue builder meant product specialist -- a Bob Lutz. But the new General Motors needs more than that as it prepares to go public in a year or so.
It needs more than a car guy, or even proven turnaround idol. It needs a confidence-builder, an inspirer. That can make all the difference.