Lee Iacocca is 82 years old. The fire in his belly is undiminished, however. I have only read an excerpt from his book “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” But that excerpt resonates with me. He talks about the failure of leadership in America. He lists what he calls the “Nine C’s of Leadership” and indicts George W Bush on each of those counts. The C’s are: Curiosity, Creative, Communicate, Character, Courage, Conviction, Charisma, Competent and Common Sense.
Iacocca says it like he sees it. His rant — and that first chapter is a rant in the finest tradition — is sincere and direct. As he puts it, he is outraged and that every American should be outraged by what is happening in the US. I respect that sort of honest outrage. It forces people out of their complacency.
The US is facing a crisis of leadership. But it is not alone. When I try to measure the Indian leadership on Iacocca’s Nine C scales, I find them failing almost as miserably as GWB. But where is India’s Iacocca to hold Indian leaders’ feet to the fire?
Here’s an excerpt from the book, for the record:
Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.
Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.
Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when “the Big Three” referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?
Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.
I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?
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.
Read it all. And ask yourself if you have the stuff to be a leader. I know I don’t.