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Mr. Lee Iacocca — The American Dream

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Mr. Lee Iacocca — The American Dream

I shall always remember my University Professor and his first Theory of Management class. He entered in pact house classroom full of students and he shouted from the door, “Did you guys ever herd of Mr. Lee Iacocca?” and than he continued “If you want truly to understand art of primal managing and swimming with the sharks you must read his 1984 book — Iacocca: An Autobiography”, “Basic principle is: Do something with only few resources at your disposal”. Next class was also full of Lee Iacocca quotes, and next class, and than next class… Maybe i was not ready than for Lee Iacocca and his vibrant professional life. Lets be honest and clear, if you want full classroom of 18, 19 and 20 something years old boys and girls to burst in to laugh just shout Lee Iacocca almost from the front door.

Years have passed by and my professor became top notch economic adviser. He even worked as outside consultant for various Governments across Europe, touche to him. As for me, that name Lee Iacocca always stood somewhere in the back of my head. I must say perfect example of personal branding is charismatic catchy name and off course later on i’v actually reed that astonishing Autobiography of his — warm recommendations.

Once more i’v lost track with Mr. Iacocca until few days ago and one crucial line from some random movie that i watched “Don’t get your hopes high mate, you are not Lee Iacocca”. Maybe mysterious ways of the Universe wants something from me?! Ok Universe who am i to contradict. So i’v decided to pay little lets say homage to the embodiment of American Dream where nothing is impossible- Mr. Lee Iacocca!

Ever worked for the boss from hell? Ever had a job you wish you didn’t have? You’re unappreciated. The boss knows all and you don’t know anything. Any of your great ideas are not only threatening to your boss, but they are shot down immediately. Ever stayed with this job until the boss fired you?

If so, I would suggest you do what Iacocca did: become the owner of your x-boss’s failing competitor, pull it out of bankruptcy in less than three years, make it the leading seller in the industry, and then threaten to buy out your x-boss’s company. Smooth us that, but as life tends to little bit more complicated than easy “run’n gun” strategy; i shall start from the very beginnings of Mr. Iaccoca life.



Born in Pennsylvania in 1924, Lee Iacocca joined the Ford Motor Company in 1946. He rose rapidly, becoming president of Ford in 1970. Though Henry Ford II fired Iacocca in 1978, he was soon hired by the nearly bankrupt Chrysler Corporation. Within a few years Chrysler was showing record profits, and Iacocca was a national celebrity. He left Chrysler in 1992 but returned for an ad campaign in 2005.

Early Life

Lido Anthony Iacocca, generally known as Lee Iacocca, was born to Italian immigrants Nicola and Antonietta in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 1924. Iacocca suffered a serious bout of rheumatic fever as a child, and as a result he was found medically unfit for military service in World War II. During the war, he attended Lehigh University as an undergraduate. He then received a master’s degree in engineering from Princeton University.

Climbing the Ranks at Ford

Iacocca’s engineering degree landed him a job at the Ford Motor Company in 1946. He soon left engineering for sales, where he excelled, then worked in product development. Iacocca also moved up the ranks at Ford, becoming a vice president and general manager of the Ford division by 1960. One of Iacocca’s accomplishments was helping to bring the iconic Mustang — an affordable, stylish sports car — to the market in 1964.

In 1970, Iacocca became Ford’s president. However, the straight-talking Iacocca clashed with Henry Ford II, scion of the Ford family and chairman of the auto company. The tense relationship between the two led to Ford firing Iacocca in 1978.

“I was raised to give back. I was born to immigrant parents and was fortunate to become successful at an early age.” — Lee Iacocca

Chrysler Leader

A few months after leaving Ford, Iacocca was hired to head the Chrysler Corporation, which was then in such financial distress that it was in danger of bankruptcy. Under Iacocca’s leadership, Chrysler received $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees; at the time, it was the largest amount of government assistance that a private company had ever received. This gave Iacocca the breathing room he needed to revamp and streamline operations.

During Iacocca’s tenure, the popular minivan was added to the Chrysler vehicle lineup. Iacocca also served as a spokesman in television ads, promising anyone who test drove a Chrysler $50 if they ended up buying a similar car from a competitor. The company edged into profitability in 1981 and repaid its government loans in 1983, years ahead of schedule. In 1984, Chrysler made more than $2.4 billion, a record for the corporation.

Iacocca’s success in turning Chrysler around made him a national celebrity.President Ronald Reagan asked him to help coordinate fundraising efforts for the restoration of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Two books written by Iacocca, his 1984 autobiography Iacocca and Talking Straight (1988), became best-sellers. He even made an appearance on the popular 1980s TV show Miami Vice.

Life After Chrysler

Iacocca retired from Chrysler in 1992. He was then able to devote more time to the Iacocca Family Foundation, a charity that supports diabetes research (Iacocca’s first wife, Mary, suffered from diabetes and died from complications related to the disease).

Iacocca also worked with Kirk Kerkorian on an attempted hostile takeover of Chrysler in the mid-1990s. Despite the thwarted takeover attempt, Iacocca resumed his role as a Chrysler pitchman in 2005, appearing in ads with Jason Alexander and Snoop Dogg. Iacocca’s compensation for the commercials was sent to his foundation. He remains a booster for the U.S. car industry, though his frustration with both public and private leadership was the subject of his third book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (2007).

After losing his first wife in 1983, Iacocca married Peggy Johnson from 1986 to 1987. He had another short-lived marriage to Darrien Earle from 1991 to 1994. In his later years, he enjoys spending time with his two daughters, Kathryn and Lia, from his first marriage and his grandchildren.


Oh yes, quotes. I could just randomly pick lets say ten quotes from Mr. Iacocca and finish my article right away. Internet Society just loves top10 or top5 charts without any content but it would be rather unfair to persona behind the name Lee Iacocca. On the other hand his thoughts are something that represent him and his strong and sharp old school businessman aura. Nothing get’s better insight in to the man’s mind, ambitions, goals and perception than thoughts like “The one word that makes a good manager / decisiveness.” or “I have to act to live.” So, lets mention some memorable, inspirational and off course wise, wise words from the Man (capital M) himself.

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”


“There are times when even the best manager is like the little boy with the big dog, waiting to see where the dog wants to go so he can take him there”


“I’m sometimes described as a flamboyant leader and a hip-shooter, a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants operator. But if that were true, I could never have been successful in this business.”


“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way”


“If I had to sum up in a word what makes a good manager, I’d say decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers to gather the numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and act.”


“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.”


“When the product is right, you don’t have to be a great marketer.”


“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”


“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.”


“I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.”


“The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.”


“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.”


“Motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can’t be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people.”


“Management is nothing more than motivating other people.”


“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”


Born and raised in family of Italian imigrants Lee Iacocca started his journey from the dirt streets of Allentown, Pennsylvania right down to bright spotlights of major business centers; even Bruce Springsteen couldn’t write it better. What is the true legacy of Lee Iacocca?

If we want to look upon his legacy as something exact than mos def it would have to be middle class, motor and backbone of American society today. Let’s be clear, off course that he didn’t produce and preserve middle class by himself but he played major role in American economic and automobile industry boom alongside Mr. Henry Ford. “If it hadn’t been for Henry Ford’s drive to create a mass market for cars, America wouldn’t have a middle class today.” he wrote for Time Magazine back in 1998. I might just add If it hadn’t been for Lee Iacocca’s drive to inspire, take a risk and to lead from the first front lines America wouldn’t have a middle class today. Big words? Maybe, but scroll up and see his biography and influence in both Ford and Chrysler and combine number of employees in this two automobile industry giants.

If we want to talk about abstract form of legacy than we simply can’t ignore those massive amount of people around the Globe who reed one of his books or even one quote (that includes my University Professor) and got inspired/determined to do go that extra anti-conformist mile.

But what is possible the greatest legacy of Mr. Lee Iacocca? He gave people real sweet slice of American Dream or even World Wide Dream — You are capable to do everything even if all odds are against you. Determination, Focus and clear goal in front of you is what only counts. Not bad for a kid from Allentown, Pennsylvania, not bad.


Iacocca: An Autobiography pdf


Sources:, Successories

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