Lee Iacocca is a very angry man. He is angry because America, in his estimation, is lacking leadership in politics and in business. We simply are not keeping up with the rest of the world, even in the technology that we invented. As the former president of Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, he knows the elements of leadership and their importance in successful businesses.
"Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?"
The test of a leader, in Iacocca's mind, is to fulfill "The Nine C's of Leadership": curiosity, be creative, communicate, be a person of character, have courage, have conviction, have charisma, be competent, and have common sense. Looking at the current list of presidential hopefuls, Iacocca puts each of them through this test, evaluating John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson. He has some very interesting insights on each candidate, both on the positive and negative sides.
As Iacocca looks at America's role as an international leader, he thinks we have failed miserably of late and has a few suggestions for more success. "We have to get creative. Start thinking about another way of approaching the energy problem." In particular, we need to be innovative and show strong leadership on energy.
Iacocca talks about the current and future trends in the automotive industry. "In a reality-based world, the UAW sees that companies like Toyota are thriving by building nonunion factories." There are huge problems facing American car makers in our global marketplace. Trade imbalance is continuing to have a very negative effect on the American automotive industry. "The glory days of the UAW are over, and that's true for most unions: the basic premise of business also applies to the unions; If you're filling a need, you'll do well. If you're not filling a need, you'll die. The unions haven't changed with the times. They haven't re-invented themselves to meet the new challenges of a global workforce and a global marketplace."
Out of the negative comes the positive. Getting back to basics on many levels will help America focus on important factors in re-inventing our role as leaders in a global economy. Common sense, honesty and self-discipline are leadership tools that mentors use. The important role of mentors in our business and political society is also examined.
Iacocca ends the book with a call to arms for all Americans in the upcoming elections. It is all about preserving democracy and evaluating the leadership qualities of our leaders. If you believe in a cause, then support it somehow. Listen, learn and make a difference in someone's life. Examine all the options and vote!
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on April 14, 2008