Iacocca’s Nine C’s of Leadership



Former Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca has “failed” at retirement, he says. His latest project is a new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?. The book has made waves because of the political content (not the focus here), but he's also provided a list of leadership traits, something that I think is relevant to discuss here on the Lean Blog.

The “Nine C's of Leadership:

  • Curiosity
    • Listen to people outside the “Yes, sir” crowd. Read voraciously.
  • Creative
    • Go out on a limb. Leadership is all about managing change.
  • Communicate
    • A simple one. You should be talking to everybody, even your enemies.
  • Character
    • Having the guts to do the right thing. If you don't make it on character, the rest won't amount to much.
  • Courage
    • Courage in the 21st century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiation table and talk. If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes.
  • Conviction
    • Fire in your belly. You've got to really want to get something done.
  • Charisma
    • The ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him or her.
  • Competent
    • Surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Be a problem solver.
  • Common sense
    • Your ability to reason.

I can see all of those being good traits for Lean leaders, as well. Be careful, maybe, with “be a problem solver.” Lean leaders don't try to solve all of the problems themselves, they encourage and support their employees to solve problems themselves (when possible) and then stepping in with “solutions” only when necessary (such as cross-functional or value-stream level problems, for example). We don't need Lean leaders to be “heroes,” fixing everything themselves. Then again, being a problem solver is usually better than accepting and tolerating a bad status quo.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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