Leadership: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On July 13, 2018

Lee Iacocca was a business icon. The American automobile executive was best known for spearheading the development of Ford Mustang while at the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s, and then for reviving the Chrysler Corporation and bringing it back from bankruptcy as its CEO during the 1980s. For many people, the image that sticks in their minds is Iacocca staring at the camera in a Chrysler TV ad and saying: “In the automobile industry, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way!” Are you prepared to lead, follow, or get out of the way?

Mr. Iacocca was putting the world on notice that Chrysler was ready to innovate and become a front-runner in the auto industry. But he could just as easily have been talking about business leadership (something he did a lot after his retirement from Chrysler).

If you’re serious about scaling up your company to experience dramatic and sustainable growth, you know that it won’t happen without great leadership. It’s been suggested that if you want to grow your business by 10x you need to grow yourself (and your leadership) by 10x. Real business transformation begins with you!

Let’s use some of Lee Iacocca’s words to take a quick look at a few leadership principles.

So often a lack of leadership is the thing that keeps a company from growing to its full potential. If your company isn’t growing the way you want it to you may need to take a look in the mirror. Are you modeling the kind of behavior that will transform your company? But you have to keep things in perspective. A leader doesn’t try to do everything himself. Great leadership is about motivating and enabling (developing) key team members to do their jobs. What are you doing to develop your team?

You might be able to 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. —Lee Iacocca


Being the leader doesn’t mean that you have to have all the answers. If you have hired the right people you should have some people on your team who know more than you do about certain aspects of your business. You hired them for their expertise. Let them be the expert in their area. Encourage them. Listen to what they have to say. Your job is to make sure that what they propose fits within the framework of your vision and strategy. If that’s all in alignment, follow their advice and counsel. Being unwilling to learn is arrogance—and that’s a terrible weakness for someone who is aspiring to lead.

Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions. —Lee Iacocca


Get Out of the Way
I’ve told the story before about a client who told me that he wanted me to fix his business. I told him that we couldn’t fix his business until we fixed him. Sometimes instead of being a trailblazer, a leader becomes a bottleneck. It could be a result of poor vision. It could happen as a result of inadequate processes. Maybe the business strategy is faulty. Or it could be the result of having everything run through the leader. You need to evaluate your leadership to ensure that you’re not the one hindering growth. Click on the orange “Assessment” button below for a quick evaluation of your leadership (and several other areas that could be holding your company back).

I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way. —Lee Iacocca