Lockheed's secret weapon

  @FortuneMagazine May 6, 2013: 8:47 AM ET
LOC20 marillyn hewson lockheed martin

Marillyn Hewson became Lockheed's CEO this year, just as her biggest client, the U.S. Department of Defense, became subject to forced budget cuts.

(Fortune)

Marillyn Hewson probably does not fit your notion of what a defense company CEO is like. The Lockheed Martin chief is so self-effacing that for years Mike Hardin, dean of the University of Alabama's business school, didn't know exactly what Hewson did for a living, even though she sits on his school's Board of Visitors. If you go to see her at her Bethesda, Md., office, chances are good she'll greet you with a warm smile, hand you a bottle of water, and, if it happens to be a Monday morning in the fall, offer a lively recap of the previous Saturday's University of Alabama football game. (She earned an undergraduate degree in business and a master's degree in economics from the school.)

Hewson's good nature belies a toughness developed during the course of a 30-year career at Lockheed Martin (No. 59 on the Fortune 500). "Don't ever underestimate or think that she doesn't have a backbone or position because she does," says Bruce Tanner, chief financial officer of Lockheed. The daughter of a longtime civilian employee of the Army, she worked in four of the company's five business units. Hewson, ranked No. 19 on Fortune's 2012 Most Powerful Women list, was tapped to become chief operating officer of the company, a gig she expected to be her last at Lockheed. Then the company's CEO-in-waiting, Christopher Kubasik, was forced to resign amid revelations that he'd had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The company immediately elevated Hewson to the COO job, and less than 60 days later she became CEO, her 20th job at Lockheed. "Nineteen was a quick turn," she jokes.

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