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I have been an ardent adherent of Lee Iacoca – an uber-successful industrialist and a leader par excellence – since my mind evolved fairly enough to understand the world of difference that separates a leader from a manager. When I ruminated over the contagious, hence coveted, leadership skills which Iacoca consistently and efficaciously exhibited in his workplace and beyond, I was thrilled and felt it prudent to bring it to the notice of the seekers at large. Iacoca undoubtedly metamorphosed the complexion of Ford automobile, by designing majestic car models and shaping charismatic future leaders, and placed it on the pinnacle of prosperity. After being sacked by Henry Ford II, Iacoca was beseeched to join the then bleeding Chrysler Corporation. Immaculate leadership skills and courageous people skills of the leader found full expression in Chrysler and the rest is history. Henry Ford II might still be cursing his parochial intellect that caused him to oust Iacoca!
Today, we seldom devote much thought to the difference between a manager and leader and often end up using the two words synonymously which is actually a blunder. When people who have pursued MBA or know something about management are asked as to what is management, they come up with one clichéd answer and that is “the art of getting things done through others in a formally organized group.” This malnourished, listless and incomplete definition of management sinks so deep in their mind that complacency, clumsiness, confusion, ignorance, partiality, apathy, insecurity and lethargy automatically adorns their working style. Leaders on the other hand are strikingly different with accuracy, efficacy, empathy, perseverance, vision, efficiency, objectivity, excellence, courage and altruism constantly evident in their working style.
Don’t get me wrong guys; I have no bones to pick with the designations like manager, assistant manager, senior manager, senior general manager etcetera. The point I am trying to drive home is that irrespective of designations, titles or positions everybody should demonstrate leadership abilities – more particularly the people at top echelons. But sadly enough, even such dignitaries are few and far between. Owing to the fact that I had recent nightmarish experience of working under a delusion-stricken manager, I know where the shoe pinches. Sitting uninterestedly at the table with the gaze firmly planted on the mailbox from morning till evening, ducking corporate rigors, assigning delicate responsibilities to the subordinates, preferring armchair work, holding number of time pass meetings, talking always about personal growth, complicating the simple scenarios, desiring to reap before sowing, having autocratic approach, being always on ego ride are some of the managerial styles of working.
Leaders on the other hand believe in leading by examples. Leaders have their fingers on the pulse of their own feelings and emotions and that’s why they understand and honor others’ feelings very well. Leaders create a culture of enduring excellence and leave a legacy which lasts for millenniums.
One such leader, Lee Iacoca, remarks that “I have never been Commander in Chief, but I have been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I have 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.” Following is Iacoca’s C list:
“A leader,” says Iacoca, “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. If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn’t put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he’s right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don’t care.”
“A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, and be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. Leadership is all about managing change – whether you are leading a company or a country. Things change and you get creative. You adapt.”
“A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I am not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing realities and telling the truth. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it is painful.”
“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. Abraham Lincoln once said, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
“A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls (valiance). Swagger is not courage. Tough talk is not courage. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.”
“To be a leader you have got to have CONVICTION – a fire in your belly. You have got to have passion. You have got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly?”
“A leader should have CHARISMA. I am 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 have got to know what you are doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. A leader has to be a problem solver.”
“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 Wikes-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 have 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.”
The aforementioned leadership wisdom of Iacoca in the form of nine Cs is really ingenious, potent and awe-inspiring. It provides an excellent framework for a corporate leader to succeed in today’s challenging business environment. “Leaders are made, not born”, says Iacoca. “Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up the desk and talk theory; it’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.”
Lee Iacoca further roars that “when you look around, you’ve got to ask: where have all the leaders gone? Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.”
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