Lee Iacocca was known for leadership. He was an American CEO for Chrysler during its darkest hours and considered by many to be a great leader. Chrysler was on the brink of bankruptcy and Iacocca convinced the U.S. government to loan the corporation money, a lot of money. Under his leadership, Chrysler revamped itself and repaid the loans of $1.2 billion seven years ahead of schedule. A few years later, he was appointed by President Reagan to lead the efforts to restore the Statue of Liberty, including all the fundraising efforts. He came through and cemented himself as a true American leader. He was even asked by many to run for President of the United States but declined. His 10 C’s of leadership became the subject of many articles. The following are the 10 traits that Iacocca felt leaders should possess if they want to lead effectively.
By nature, a good leader is curious, wanting to learn as much as possible, even listening to things they did not want to hear. Iacocca felt that surrounding himself with “yes” men would create blind spots. He also believed the inability to listen to others was a basic form of arrogance. Be curious.
A good leader is looking and willing to try something different. Doing the same thing over and over again produces the same results. Sometimes, you have to think outside the box.
This is getting people to believe in and follow you. Every decision has a moral and ethical component. Displaying moral character generally results in more people following you.
Having passion can be contagious if the person possesses other C traits. There is a line between obsession and passion.
Leaders must have the ability to communicate well and convey a vision to others, including employees. Telling your workers “nice job” is just not enough. Explain in particular what impressed you and be honest; it is the preferred method to inspire workers to improve and follow a vision.
Courage is not about being a strong boss or bully. Courage is doing the right thing, even if it lands you in hot water.
This is a tough one. Some have it and some do not. If you are like me, you have to work on improving your charisma as best as you can.
You have to know what you are doing. No one can do all tasks with mastery. Know your weaknesses and look for talented people to help you in areas you may be weak.
Common sense is somewhat self-explanatory. All good leaders must have this attribute. Iacocca was packed with common sense and made most decisions based on it.
A crisis will occur on every leader’s watch. How you handle that crisis is what separates you from a poor leader. Henry Ford II publicly humiliated Iacocca but the latter took over and saved Chrysler. Iacocca was considered only a decent leader at Ford; but he proved he was a great leader at Chrysler.
In 1984, I read Iacocca’s book. That book changed my perspective and my life. He wrote about being fired from Ford, his humiliation, determination and what he did to overcome adversity. He was intensely hurt and even nervous about his own future. He expressed despair when he learned of Chrysler’s crisis. He covered his inner thoughts and concerns on decisions and the steps taken to save Chrysler. The book exemplified the 10 C’s.
I started to write the Up Front column in 2007. One of my first editorials was about Iacocca. I wrote about his book: what it meant to me and how it ultimately shaped my career path. I sent his office a copy of the editorial. To my surprise, I received a letter from Iacocca expressing his pleasure that he positively affected a young man. It seemed clear to me this was the true goal of writing the book; he wanted to inspire young people to do the right thing. At that time, he was known for his three P’s: Passion, Persistence and Patience. His repeating thread was just part of his ability to communicate effectively.
I find myself relating back to Iacocca’s book and his life as an American story from time to time. Iacocca was the son of Italian immigrants and was grateful for the opportunities America gave him and his family. He wrote that he wanted to pay back the country he loved. It is why he did not hesitate to accept President Reagan’s request to save the Statue of Liberty. He turned down the chance to run for president as he felt others were better qualified. Iacocca passed away in 2019 at the age of 94.