Lee Iacocca is an example of a good leader. But not a great one. Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good To Great, called Lee a level 4, but not a level 5, leader.
Iacocca let his own ego get ahead of the success of his business.
He achieved a miraculous turnaround for his company, then spent so much time grooming his fame that in the second half of his tenure, the company plunged back into mediocrity.
Carol Dweck is an incredible psychology professor at Stanford who wrote a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
She goes into extensive detail, backed up with real-life examples and science, to show the radically different results between a fixed mindset and growth mindset.
I suggest reading the book. It was recommended by Bill Gates.
Mrs. Dweck asserts that Iacocca failed because his company operated on the fixed-mindset premise that great geniuses do not need great teams, what the book Good to Great calls “a genius with a thousand helpers model.”
“Fixed-mindset people want to be the only big fish so that when they compare themselves to those around them, they can feel a cut above the rest. In not one autobiography of a fixed-mind CEO did I read much about mentoring or employee development programs. In every growth-mindset autobiography, there was deep concern with personnel development and extensive dicussion of it.” -from the book Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Iacocca spend business funds lavishly and unnecessarily:
“Even during bad years at Chrysler, Iacocca threw lavish Christmas parties for the company elite. At every party, as kind, he presented himself with an expensive gift, which the executives were later billed for.” -Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Iacocca seemed to frequently use pronouns like “I” to praise himself:
“Fortunately, Chrysler recovered from its brush with death. Today I’m a hero.” -Lee Iacocca, in his autobiography
He went to a few too many talk shows:
“He diverted his attention to making himself one of the most celebrated CEOs in American business history. Investor’s Business Daily and the Wall Street Journal chronicled how Iacocca appeared regularly on talk shows like the Today show and Larry King Live, personally starred in over eighty commercials, entertained the idea of running for president of the United States, and widely promoted his autobiography… in the second half of his tenure, Chrysler’s stock fell 31 percent behind the general market.” -from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins
However, if you just look at the way Warren Buffett writes his shareholder letters, how Sam Walton wrote his book, or how Jack Welch wrote his books, there’s no ego.
They immediately acknowledge and point their success to their incredible team, naming each of them by first and last name:
“I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished with other people… Please remember that every time you see the word I in these pages, it refers to all those colleagues and friends and some I might have missed.” -Jack Welch
So the question is, ask yourself if you’re a level 4 or a level 5 ?
Do you know someone who could be a level 5 leader but is holding himself back because he cares too much about the limelight, his own ego, and his own self-aggrandization (a fancy word for “spending too much time telling the world how awesome he or she is.”)
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