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Tough-Assed Leadership: We Need More of This Stuff!

September 2, 2009

Updated December 12, 2012

images FINALLY!

It’s about time that someone who understands the dynamics of leadership AND the complexities of industrial competition is heading up an American company.

Meet Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne who took over the helm of Chrysler in July 2009. I love this guy. The 60 year-old corporate leader tells it like it is, something that those leading the Detroit Three auto makers avoided over several decades.

In addition to carving out each Chrysler brand into a separate division that is havinig to compete for resources, Marchionne had the audacity to ask real employees who they saw as the leaders in their workplace. From there he promoted those who know how to lead and either fired or watched senior executives leave the company. That’s how it’s done. No being processed to death to try to figure out how to position Chrysler for the future. No group-hugging focus groups. Time is of the essence…and Marchionne knows this. If he doesn’t get it right – quickly – then the future becomes very cloudy for a once-proud American company.

Chrysler has shown remarkable improvement under Marchionne’s leadership. The company’s profits have risen, and sales have been booming. And this from a company that seen as a dog in the automotive industry a few years ago, one that many economists suggested be allowed to go bankrupt.

There are those out there who don’t like harsh tactics. I don’t exactly like them either. But in a capitalistic economy (which I happen to prefer), when you’re in senior management you’re either on the bus or under it when it comes to aligning with the corporation’s leader’s vision and direction. If the leader has it wrong, it won’t be long until he or she is shown the door by the Board.

We’re no longer living in the 1950s and 1960s when America ruled the Capitalist world. Things started changing in the 1970s after OPEC (1973), escalating in the 1980s and 1990s with the emergence of China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, etc. I remember getting out of one of my buddies new Datsuns in 1972 and accidentally knocking off a piece of the metal door moulding (he wasn’t happy). Today, we would say that’s crap quality. Well, that company is now called Nissan and if you think their quality is crap then you’re living in a time warp.

The Detroit Three have only got religion recently, notably Ford (it didn’t bail-ous from the U.S. and Canadian governments during the 2008-009 financial meltdown). When you combine the effects of the recession, the financial liquidity crisis and global competition among auto makers, then you can see the huge challenges facing the Detroit Three.

We’re living in turbulent times. In previous blog posts I’ve looked at what are the right leadership questions to ask. We’re into a whole new competitive world, and strong corporate leaders like Sergio Marchionne are sorely needed by North American industry. For ideas on leading into the future, you may wish to check out my 10 lessons for Aspiring Leaders.

Who can you suggest as a tough-assed leader who has what it takes to successfully lead their organizations?


Click here to download my new complimentary e-book Discover Your Inner Leader: Reflections to Inspire and Motivate You.


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2013 12:32 pm

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