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Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

Posted by blogpmm on November 11, 2009



Reviewed by

Mohd As’ri Chik.


Where Have All The Leaders Gone? By Lee Iacocca, co-authored with Catherine Whitney. 2008. New York: Scribner. 263 pp.


Lee Iacocca, 82 years old (2008) is a former Ford President, a former CEO (from 1978) and chairman (from 1979) of Chrysler Corporation until his retirement at the end of 1992. He has spent 48 years in auto industry. He has experienced in saving the Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy in 1980s.


Lee Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School (now known as William Allen High School) in 1942, and Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. After graduating from Lehigh, he went to Princeton University, where he took his electives in politics and plastics. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer in 1946. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths at Ford, entering the company’s sales force. He was very successful in sales, and he moved up through the ranks of Ford, become President of the Ford Division in 1964 when he was 40, but he clashed with Henry Ford II and ultimately, in 1978, was fired by Ford, despite the company posting a $2 billion profit for the year. After being fired at Ford, Lee Iacocca joined Chrysler which at the time the company was losing millions, and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off many workers, selling the loss-making Chrysler Europe division to Peugeot, and bringing in many former associates from his former company. In 1983, with Hal Sperlich, the driving force at Ford who had been fired a few months before Iacocca and was waiting for him at Chrysler, the two make an automotive history.


Politically, Iacocca supported the successful Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2004 presidential election, however, he endorsed Bush’s opponent, Democrat John Kerry. Most recently, in Michigan’s 2006 Gubernatorial race, Iacocca appeared in televised political ads endorsing Republican candidate Dick DeVos, who lost. Iacocca endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for President in the 2008 Presidential Election.

As a leader in a leading automotive industry in US, he has known more leaders than almost anyone else. Among them are nine US presidents, many heads of state, and the CEOs of the nation’s top corporations. Through this book, he is sharing his wisdom, knowledge, and wit about the leadership of America. He gives comments on George W. Bush leadership and gives his straight-up assessments of the American politicians running for president in 2008, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Mc Cain. He is also the author of the bestsellers Iacocca: An Autobiography (1984) and Talking Straight (1988).


The focus of this book is mainly to sell idea of what the characters that a leader should has.


In chapter one, from his experiences as a top leader the author shares a few things about leadership and has figured out nine points which is called the ‘Nine C’s of leadership’.


A leader has to;

  • Show CURIOSITY – that he has to listen to people outside his inner circle, has to read voraciously. If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different idea, he grows stale.
  • Be CREATIVE – a leader has to be willing to try something different and he should think outside the box. Leadership is all about managing change. Things change and a leader has to be creative to adapt.
  • COMMUNICATE –that a leader has to facing reality and telling the truth, even when it is painful.  Communication has to start with telling truth, even when it is painful.
  • A person of CHARACTER – means that he knows the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing.
  • Have COURAGE – a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.
  • Have CONVICTION – that he got to have passion, got to really want to get something done.
  • Have CHARISMA – the quality that makes people want to follow you, the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him.
  • Be COMPETENT – he got to know what he’s doing. More important, he got to surround himself with people who know what they’re doing. A leader has to be a problem solver.
  • Have COMMON SENSE – ability to reason.


The author believes that leaders are made in time of crisis. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. A leader has to be COOL IN CRISIS.


In chapter two, the author is sharing about what management is all about. In his 48 years experiences in the auto industry, and through his six hundred speeches about management, he always said the same thing: “Here’s what management is about: Pick good people and set the right priorities”.  As a leader, succeed of fail based on team. To succeed, a leader should have a group of people that knows what they are doing. People who work together will win. The job of a leader is to accomplish goals that advance the common good. The test of a leader is the organization should be better off when a leader leaves office than when he started. The author also stress that a leader should be able to write down his top priorities on a single sheet of A4 paper in less than 50 words and updated it every week.


In the last chapter, the author states that the Nine Cs of leadership which was introduced in the first chapter are ideals and there are a very few people; even leaders, who have them all. But when look back in history, it is noticed that different times require a different emphasis. He pointed to two recent examples. When Jimmy Carter was elected as President, people cared more about CHARACTER than CHARISMA, but when Ronald Reagan, it was all about CHARISMA and COMMUNICATION.




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