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Where’s Lee Iacoccoa When We Need Him?

The Nine C’s of Leadership

Compiled By Bill Willard

Contributing Author

The Issue

Remember Lee Iacocca? The guy who rescued Chrysler Corporation from itself?  Well, he’s 82 now and has a new book: Where Have All The Leaders Gone? (Scribner, $26). What follows is another part of my series of macro and micro “Leadership” Book Reviews and Issues of Week—a look at Iacocca’s “Nine C’s of Leadership”.

What He Thinks

Iacoccoa pulls no punches when he wonders: “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, says Iacocca: “This is America, not the damned, ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

Iacocca elaborates on nine C’s of leadership, with Curiosity being the first, but keeping one’s head during a Crisis perhaps the most essential leadership trait.

1. A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the “Yes, sir” crowd in his inner circle. 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.

2. A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. Leadership is all about managing change — whether you’re leading a company or leading a country.

3. A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth.

4. 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.”

5. A leader must have COURAGE. Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

6. To be a leader you’ve got to have CONVICTION — a fire in your belly. You’ve got to have passion. You’ve got to really want to get something done.

7. A leader should have CHARISMA. 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.

8. A leader has to be COMPETENT. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing.

9. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have COMMON SENSE.

THE BIGGEST C IS CRISIS. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. And according to Lee Iacoccoa: From 9-11 to Hurricane Katrina and the crises we confront today, this last area is where our nation’s leaders have fallen flat.

What Do You Think?

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Bill Willard is a commercial freelance writer in Clearwater FL. A high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years, in addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals. He is a Contributing Author. Visit his Website: Or contact him at to sign up for his popular e-blog, Daily Grin.

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Bill Sheridan | Jul 2, 2009 | Reply

    Good piece of writing, Mr. Willard!

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