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Bookshelf: Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

One the same trip back from Hartford, I picked up Where Have All The Leaders Gone (Lee Iaococa) and it rocked me in the same way Team Of Rivals did (Doris Kearns Goodwin).

One the heals of my last post on Drucker, Iaococa practically reaches out of the pages, takes you by the collar and shakes you. It’s always meaningful to me to see people get this excited. It means they have conviction, principles, they are capable of fighting to make the world a better place.

The list and message below sounds like many from books past. What struck me here is that this book and many others are starting a slow boil of frustration with leadership in general. It’s everywhere: the leadership of the country, our top business brass, our teachers, our coaches, our parents.

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There is something very unique about the rumbling going on now versus when the whitecollar layoffs were just starting in the late 80s/early 90s. The unrest has last longer, it has become hip to talk about in public, it is no longer as hidden when seeking a job, having been “affected” is a sign that you’ve gained some knowledge about how things are really working…and you are qualified to help bring about the change you want to see.

Lee, coming from decades of priceless management experience, offers wisdom and advice that we can all incorporate into the person we want to become.  

Lee’s Test of a Leader  Read excerpt of inroduction here.

A leader 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. 

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different.  Leadership is all about managing change—whether you’re leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. 

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. …facing reality and telling the truth. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s 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. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. If you’re a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes.  

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. How do you measure fire in the belly? 

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. That’s my definition of charisma. 

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? 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. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

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 Wilkes-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’ve 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 Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

About the Author: Christine Haskell

Christine is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with several years experience in the .com industry. She recently started social venture labs, an idea incubator for those leading small mission-driven businesses or organizations looking to create relationships, share ideas and [...]

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