Little-known Facts about Well-known Leaders – Lee Iacocca

If someone were to ask me what Lee Iacocca was best known for, I’m afraid I would find it quite difficult to decide on a single answer. Today, he’s an 82-year-old philanthropist and author who’s as active, feisty, and driven as he’s ever been — if not more so.

However, to highlight a single chapter in his on-going saga would indeed be a momentous challenge. Think about the choices:

  • He was an American industrialist.
  • He was president of Ford Motor Company.
  • He was instrumental in the development of the Ford Mustang.
  • He was fired from Ford Motor Company.
  • He saved the Chrysler Corp. from bankruptcy via restructuring as chairman.
  • He secured a loan guarantee from the U.S. Congress in 1979 to save the company.
  • Unlike so many other industries, he repaid the entire loan — seven years earlier than expected!
  • He was responsible for Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC in 1987, reducing the Big Four to the Big Three. This move also brought the profitable Jeep division under Chrysler’s corporate umbrella.
  • He was a passionate advocate of U.S. business exports in the 1980s.
  • In 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which was created to raise funds for the renovation and preservation of the Statue of Liberty. He continues to serve on the board of the foundation.
  • In 1999, Iacocca was the head of EV Global Motors Co. a company formed to develop and market electric bikes with a top speed of 15 mph and a range of 20 miles between recharging at wall outlets.
  • He is the author and co-author of several best-selling books.
  • He is a strong advocate for better medical treatment of diabetes. In 2000, Iacocca founded Olivio Premium Products, which manufactures the Olivio line of food products made from olive oil. He donates all profits from the company to diabetes research.
  • Iacocca has been an advocate of “Nourish the Children,” an initiative of Nu Skin Enterprises, since its inception in 2002. He is currently its chairman. He takes an active interest in the initiative and helped to donate a generator for the Malawi, Africa, VitaMeal plant.
  • Iacocca led the funding campaign to expand Lehigh University into buildings formerly owned by Bethlehem Steel. Iacocca Hall on the Mountaintop Campus of Lehigh University houses the College of Education, the biology and chemical engineering departments, and The Iacocca Institute, which is focused on global competitiveness.
  • In July 2005, Iacocca returned to the airwaves as Chrysler’s pitchman, along with stars such as Jason Alexander and Snoop Dogg, to promote Chrysler’s “Employee Pricing Plus” program; the ads reprise the “If you can find a better car, buy it” line that was Iacocca’s trademark in the 1980s. In return for his services, Iacocca and DaimlerChrysler agreed that his fees, plus a $1 donation per vehicle sold from July 1 through December 31, 2005, would be donated to the Iacocca Foundation for diabetes research.
  • Most recently, he wrote a book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, in which he challenges both political parties and business leaders everywhere to return our country to the levels of strength, quality, success and integrity it once enjoyed. He minces no words in this particular best seller. Visit our book reviews on our web site for greater insight.

See what I mean? Where would you focus? I hope I have, in some way, encouraged you to do some personal research on your own into this very multifaceted leader who will forever grace the pages of history books everywhere.

Lee Iacocca was born Lido Anthony Iacocca in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Italian immigrants who had settled in Pennsylvania’s steel-making belt. After high school, he graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in industrial engineering. He then attended Princeton University on a Wallace Memorial Fellowship.

Beginning a career at Ford Motor Company as an engineer in the early 50s, he quickly proceeded to turn them on their ear. He made tremendous inroads in engineering, sales and design and became president on his 40th birthday in 1964. Ironically, he clashed with Henry Ford II and ultimately was fired in 1978 despite Ford posting a two-billion-dollar profit for the year!

Rather than retiring, which he was certainly in a position to do, he moved across town to the Chrysler Corp. and performed what was considered to be miracle after miracle as he made automotive history. After retiring from Chrysler, you’d think Lee would be ready to settle down and enjoy his much-deserved retirement. Instead, he appears to have considered that retirement as a launching pad for the second half of his life. He’s accomplished more since retiring than most people do in their entire lives.

You’ll want to learn more about this very unique leader and will be inspired to share what you learn with others. We need more leaders like this man, and we need them today!

By the way, when embarking on your research, you can remember how to spell his last name by using the method devised by his Chrysler employees. They devised the mnemonic slogan: I Am Chairman Of Chrysler Corporation America.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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