Lee Iacocca is Angry

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear about a book on leadership by an ex-CEO, I cringe. They are almost without exception self congratulatory puff pieces with plenty of macho posturing. And they seldom offer useful advice. For example, one reader gave a capsule review of Jack – Straight from the Gut: “Um, I was really smart to find great people to run great businesses, over and over again.”

We may finally have an exception to this sorry pattern. Lee Iacocca, former chairman and CEO of Chrysler, has a new book coming out this week, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? A post at Angry Bear, “Has Jacob Marley been visiting?” pointed us to an excerpt. Iacocca is angry, angry about the mess this country is in, and places blame squarely at the feet of its leaders, starting with Bush:

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. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! …..

I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged.

Iacocca also gives us his nine traits of leadership, all beginning with C (curiosity, creative, conviction, charisma, competence, communication, common sense, courage, character) and finds Bush sorely wanting on all counts.

Nearly all the attributes on Iacocca’s list, save communication and competence, can’t be taught, which is probably why most leadership books are a waste of paper. But this book really isn’t about leadership. It’s about the erosion of values in our society. And he wants us to start taking names and taking action:

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.

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