Yesterday, I was smoking a cigar while fixing my kitchen lights. My wife comes up to me and shows me an excerpt of former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca’s recent book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (http://www.leeiacocca.net) which was co-authored with Catherine Whitney. The excerpt was sent to her courtesy of her aunt in Minnesota. On this 4th of July weekend (of 2008, while our country is currently on such shaky ground: economic distress including a housing crisis, job losses, and skyrocketing oil prices, not to mention the continuing war and a host of other issues), the excerpt she sent couldn’t be more timely!
In this book that reviewers describe as a combination of memoir, business advice and political harangue, Iacocca rips American politicians, the proposed Chrysler sale, and his Chrysler successor Bob Eaton, who engineered Chrysler’s sale to DaimlerChrysler.
So later at night, I pick up the book from the store and started reading it this morning. I won’t tell you what all he says about where we are as a nation, the economy, the impact of short term capital and investment practices, corporate greed, the loss of the middle class, and overall lack of leadership and innovation – you will have to read it yourself.
But I can’t help but highlight his ‘C’ list. I do think it applies to business, politics, and life equally. He writes:
“The Test of a Leader”
I’ve never been Commander in Chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I’ve figured out nine points—not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine Cs of Leadership.” They’re not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have.
So, here’s my C list:
– A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the “Yes, sir” crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place.
– A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box.
– A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth.
– A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing.
– A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage.
– To be a leader you’ve got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You’ve got to have passion.
– A leader should have CHARISMA. I’m not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It’s the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That’s my definition of charisma.
– A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? You’ve got to know what you’re doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing.
– You can’t be a leader if you don’t have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham’s rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford’s zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, “Remember, Lee, the only thing you’ve got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don’t know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you’ll never make it.”
Here is a little more if you really want to get fired up about America on this 4th of July weekend…
Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car.
Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I’ve had the privilege of living through some of America’s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let’s tell ’em all we’ve had enough.”