Feb 15, 2018

Anatomy Of A Quote: Lee Iacocca

By: Russ Zalatimo

Anatomy Of A Quote: Lee Iacocca

In this series we will dissect quotes from well-regarded leaders in various arenas and apply their words to our everyday lives.


When Lee Iacocca jumped aboard the Ford Motor Company in 1946, his beginnings weren’t exactly his ideal trajectory. Starting in the automotive engineering department, Lee recognized his strengths and requested a transition into Sales/Marketing. From there, he thrived. As an assistant sales manager, he would develop benchmarks for deals that would later become the framework for the loan structure of financing vehicles across the automobile industry. Take his “56 For 56 campaign,” aptly offering deals on 1956 Ford models that would allow for $56/month for 36 months (with a 20% down payment). From rolling out various famed vehicles (including Ford’s Escort and Mustang, as well as the Lincoln Continental III and the Mercury revival of the Cougar and Marquis in the ‘60s), Iacocca rose up the ranks at Ford (becoming President in 1970) and later became President and CEO of Chrysler in 1978 (chairman in 1979). He retired in 1992 at the age of 68.


“I hire smart people and get out of their way” – Lee Iacocca


While Iacocca was full of gems—many of which are omnipresent in business textbooks (as well as his own published books) and inspirational memes to this day—this quote is an especially valuable one.


As business owners, we’re often tasked to eliminate the initial mentality that success can be achieved alone. The phrase “it takes a village” is real and applies to any situation where results are desired. Sure, as a leader, you’ll want to delegate; but what Iacocca is saying in this quote is to allow your people to do what they do.


It starts with the hiring process.


I hire smart people…”


“Smart” doesn’t always come from a textbook, nor does it come from an advanced degree. There are many dimensions to intelligence, and as a leader you must recognize that in the individuals you employ. Hire the right people for the right jobs, where you’re confident that the work relationship is mutually beneficial. Their skills and talents help you expand, your work experiences help them learn. Together you grow.


“…and get out of their way”


When it comes to your staff, let them be great. Step to the side and allow them to flourish at their jobs. No one enjoys a micromanager, and the mere overbearing presence of one can greatly affect output that could have increased had you not been hovering over your people. If you have enough faith in your ability to hire the right individuals for the job, then have enough faith in their abilities to work their magic, even absent of your watchful eye.


Rarely did Lee Iacocca seek out people who were at his level of understanding; he would search for those above him in many ways to achieve the visions he laid out. Nearly 60 years later, Iacocca’s work has proven its staying power, and is a message for all of us on our respective roads to success.

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R M Zalatimo
R M Zalatimo
Inspire. Empower. Transform. Those are the words that NYC Wealth Innovator, Russ Zalatimo, lives by. From tips on leadership, self-help, and growing entrepreneurship Zalatimo provides the trade secrets to leading a well-rounded life.