An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca
Created: Sat Mar 20 16:00:17 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 16:00:17 2010
One of those books that I keep reading from time to time is Lee Iacocca's Autobiography (co-authored by William Novak). Lee Iacocca, the author of one of America's success stories, who managed to turn around a dying Chrysler in the 80s was a phenomenon in that period of time and his autobiography was one of the best-sellers.
The story of Iacocca is a typical rags to riches story, but there is more than that. In his Autobiography, Iacocca speaks about his rise from a middle-class Italian family that had emigrated to the US and how he ultimately became one of the most powerful men in corporate America. The first half of his book covers his growing years and his career at Ford. At Ford, he rose up the ranks and finally became the president of the company. And then, just as things were looking rosy for him and his family, a war of attrition broke out with the big man, Henry Ford (grandson of the founder of Ford Motor Company) himself and Iacocca left in disgust and a bad taste in his mouth.
The next half deals with how he took over a very sick Chrysler corporation and how he struggled to rebuild the company from the very doors of bankruptcy. It is a fascinating tale of intrigue and political maneuvering and how Iacocca finally won over a very hostile government and the banks to give Chrysler a space to breathe and live again.
Iacocca is no modest individual. The book is full of replete references to his own successes and he takes full credit for all his achievements. There is a typical American brashness in his approach and a very down-to-earth philosophy and warmth in his disposition that makes him a very likable human being. He is no pretentious philosopher, but a doer. He is also courageous in taking unpopular stands - an essential quality of a great leader and acts on instinct backed by sound judgment. But there are a few sore points in his book as well. He is cocksure and brazenly arrogant in parts. Some of the political and economic issues he highlights are also outdated in today's context and his feud with Henry Ford starts to get boring (in one place he calls him, in typical American fashion - an "evil man"!) at one point, but thankfully he does not dwell overlong on it. The redeeming feature is that he also admits to his own shortcomings and vices that led to one of the lowest points of his career - his firing at the hands of Ford.
Having said all that, this is one of the most readable autobiographies I have ever read. The style is breezy, fluent (full credit to his co-author William Novak) and dotted with interesting and humourous tidbits and anecdotes. He is a colourful personality, but the book also highlights his very humanness and his love of home and family life. Ultimately, this book is about Iacocca, the human being, and it does a great job in presenting him to us.
I recommend this book to anyone seeking inspiration in life. This man truly brings meaning to the phrase 'success from the doors of defeat.'