March 2008
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Lee Iacocca


Men and leaders


Where have all the leaders gone?


I am a huge Iacocca fan. It happened when I read his autobiography (Iacocca: An Autobiography). This son of a migrant Italian family, which came to US with nothing but a hope, started humbly and went on to become the President of Ford Motor Company. He came out of his graduate engineering college with a dream to work with Ford. Then he joined his masters while his job waited for him. Pushing challenges to the walls, wining over all sales targets, innovating marketing gimmicks, and winning with new success stories, Lee became the darling of Detroit. Apart from all other qualities, if Iacocca would be known for one thing – it would undoubtedly be his Leadership. And life was a roller coaster life even for him, as Henry Ford sacked him from his post of President because of personal differences. He joined Chrysler when the company was on the verge of becoming bankrupt. How he turned around the company is a history – of leadership with passion and integrity. Above all, Iacocca is a symbol of hope for me – that in the end, goodness wins and fair means are rewarded.


When his third book came up in April last year, I had to grab a copy. I had read it long before, but chose to write about it now.


This book is a mix of everything that Iacocca has been and what he is going through. Old that he is and grand children are that surround him now, it is like an attempt to look back, but turn back quickly to foresee the future. He starts by defining leadership with his 9Cs for leadership: (1) Curiosity, (2) Creativity, (3) Communication, (4) Character, (5) Courage, (6) Conviction, (7) Charisma, (8) Competency and (9) Common Sense. He says, “Leaders are made, not born”. He talks about life, “Life is a team effort. No one gets very far alone.


The central theme of the book was political leadership in the US, because of the upcoming Presidential Elections, 2008. He talks about the US politics, “Am I the only guy in this country who is fed up with what is happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder.” Of course he is talking about the US decision to have an affair with Iraq. He is as vocal is calling names to the Bush and his team, as an old man can get.


He evaluates all the presidential candidates based on their weaknesses and strengths. No surprises that he is fair to all and brutal for everyone. He says about Barack Obama: “is one of the stars who seem to come from nowhere to capture the imagination of the nation. What’s not to like about this guy? He has Charisma and Conviction, and obviously he has strong Communication skills. In my opinion, his race is not an issue. We are ready to elect a black man as we are to elect a woman. But is Obama the one? Is he competent to be President?..” He says about Hillary Clinton, “is a smart woman, and even her detractors acknowledge that she has shown Common-sense and Competence in the Senate. I have no doubt that we are ready to have a woman President. But is Hillary the one? There is always a question mark about Character and Conviction hanging over her head…” Any final advice for the US voters? Of course no! But he wants them to vote for sure (voting rate in the US is 45%) and not to repeat their mistake in electing Bush.


He also talks about the impending dangers on the US economy (trade imbalance in the US was $800 billion). He says, “We worship at the altar of free trade, and it’s killing us.” He demands, “Free trade must be fair trade.” Of course he points fingers towards the manipulating China and emerging India. US companies go to China because of the cheap labour there, not realising that nothing in China can be taken for granted. He says, “Wouldn’t we be stunned if China started paying its workers American-style wages, and companies still wanted to do business there?” About India: “If you think Americans are too cell-phone crazy, try walking down a city street in India. Everyone is plugged in all the time.” The size of only Indian middle class – 250 million is almost the size of the US population!


He also talks about the failed Chrysler leadership to keep the company afloat after he resigned. The biggest blame according to him goes to the CEO Bob Eaton. He writes, “So on the morning of January 12, 1998, when I woke up to the news that Chrysler had just been sold to the Germans, it knocked me for a loop. Of all the highs and lows I’d experienced, it was the lowest low… I was sick, I couldn’t sleep… I gave fifteen years of life to saving that company and now I wondered if it was worth it. How could they take Walter Chrysler’s venerable company, a great American institution, and name it after a German?” Even after all his business logic and impartial analysis, what stands apart is his love for the Stars and Stripes – the US flag. If you ever doubt if a migrant can really love his/her host land, recall Iacocca. It is ironical that he was fired from the Ford because of precisely that: they didn’t trust a migrant Italian at the helm of a great American company…


Iacocca has led a satisfying life. He stands for many things that I stand for and you would love to stand for. He will always be remembered for what he did and what he got done, for a long time. Not only in the corporate circles, but in the minds and hearts of believers like Rahul. J

14 comments to Lee Iacocca

  • I was never a fan of Iacocca and never will be.. but thats my view.. liked the way u put it though.. :)

  • me loves this dude…Lee Iacocca.
    Don”t share his thoughts on GM being sold to germans.
    Isn”t capitalism all about that?
    Kya yeh GM “american” hai? What is american. We americans stand for the global and globalisation and laisez faire….so why this double standard.
    Good post Rahulbaiyya.

  • wow! that”s inspiring! thanx for sharing:) and yes i do firmly believe that leaders are made and not born! very true…..well done Think Tank:)

  • Honestly speaking.. I didn”t know about him. But your presentation of it urges me to read about this persona who was once sacked by Ford and then went on to turnaround Chrysler ! What”s the price tag by the way?

  • V T

    Yes, I remember how big a fan I become first time I read his ”jobless at 40” biography… the Chrysyler story is was real big bang. I loved the way he used the pizza an italian symbol. The new photo makes him look really old… I remember him as that tough burly guy

  • after reading his biography, i too was a iacocca fan. the way he resurrected a pauperized chrysyler is what legends are made of. i remember there was a draft iacocca for President campaign once upon a time…

  • hmm.. i never read him ….i will try now. thanx, Rahul.

  • hmm.. i never read him ….i will try now. thanx, Rahul.

  • I never read him before Rahul. This time any way give a try. thanx for the info.

  • hmm… you have good choice of books to read… nice post… Thanks !!!

  • U hav made me intrested to read these books…….these days people hav not that much time to read but still i wil try for this……thx

  • u suggest so many good books, i am not able to read even 1 one of them, i hope i wud be..may be afetr 1 month. though “leaders are made, not born” i dont agree. i believe leaders are born, not made. no amount of training can make an incompetent person..competent. but i do agree, training gives a sort of refinement..or we can call it..polishing.

  • lee is a visionary just like henry ford ……. how many indian politicians do have a vision …….none !!! maybe this book should be given to them and be made compulsory . maybe then they can learn somthing

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