Lee Iacocca
BOB 20 lee iacocca
Iacocca doing a TV commercial in February 1983

CEO Chrysler 1989-92

Lutz says: "Action-oriented, motivational, focused, he was surely one of the most powerful, charismatic, and successful leaders in American industrial history."

Lutz grade: 305

In my inaugural meeting in Lee's office, his performance was, in many ways, typical. He was effusive, enthusiastic, expressing his opinions with a firmness that left no doubt in the listener's mind that these were facts that could not be questioned. I wondered: Should I tell him bad news? Would I alienate my new CEO by giving him market research he didn't ask for? He clearly didn't like my smart-ass attitude, and, not having much practice, didn't like an underling telling him he was wrong. It's strange. I find it hard to comprehend a leader who feels threatened by subordinates. But one of the little-known aspects about Lee Iacocca is that beneath the commanding stage presence, there was a side that was vulnerable and insecure.

I was not to be Iacocca's successor. Many on the board thought I should be, but Lee fought it vehemently. I was too ambitious, volatile, unpredictable, undiplomatic, emotional, and way too prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In short, I was too similar to Iacocca! He instituted what he called his "ABL" succession program: Anybody But Lutz.

Iacocca was at his finest when energized, when there was a crisis, when he had a sense of mission. You couldn't help but admire his focus, the ease with which he rattled off every problem and initiative in front of the company. His energy, optimism, and enthusiasm were infectious: He was able, by the power of his personality and his debating skill, to make one believe things that were manifestly impossible or untrue. Mercurial, inconsistent, controversial, a little insecure, given to posturing and bluster, Iacocca nevertheless was the incarnation of the successful leader.


  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated June 04 2013 07:34 AM ET
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