Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
Where Have All the Leaders Gone is laser-point Lido. Concise. Blunt. Insightful. 264 quick pages.
At 82, Iacocca is fearless. We’re only on page 5 when we read, “Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy.” The statements made and names named in the next 95 pages are dizzying.
You may want to skip those first 100 pages if you’re a fan of the war in Iraq and feel that the current crop of candidates for 2008 are the best and brightest America has to offer. But I enjoyed these pages and found them to be surprisingly insightful and well-researched.
Here’s another glimpse into those first 100: “When pollsters ask ordinary people what they really care about, in order of importance, here’s what they say: (1.) the war in Iraq, (2.) jobs, (3.) health care, (4.) education, and (5.) energy. Those seem like reasonable priorities to me… But in one three-month session in the United States these were the priorities: a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning, and cutting the capital gains tax. Our senators had time to debate flag-burning for 3 days, but no time to tackle health care, energy, jobs, or anything else Americans care about. Since 1777, there have been only forty-five documented cases of flag burning. But since 2000, nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs have gone up in smoke, and it wasn’t because people were burning flags.”
But even though he carries his sharpest sword, Iacocca doesn’t come across as a bully or a know-it-all. The same 82 years that made him fearless made him humble as well. You can’t help but like the guy when he openly names his biggest mistakes and grieves them.
Page 127: “When advertising slogans are better known that the 10 Commandments or the Bill of Rights, when shopping malls are our places of worship, when bad behavior is justified as long as it leads to profit, when debt is justified as long as it leads to a plasma TV, and when the measure of a person is the kind of car he drives, maybe it’s time to ask whether we’ve corrupted the very notion of capitalism. Believe it or not, capitalism originated as a system for the little guy. It replaced feudalism, in which a few wealthy owners had all the power and money and the common person had nothing. It was a noble ideal.”
On page 159: “When you stop to think about it, most of the great companies of our times began as upstarts – little Davids taking on big Goliaths.”
On page 217: “In a completely rational society, teachers would be at the tip of the pyramid, not near the bottom. In that society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers, and the rest of us would have to settle for something less. The job of passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor anyone could have.”
On page 253, near the end of the book: “No matter how important you think you are, you’re just a little blip on the screen of time.”
Iacocca makes it clear that he won’t be running for public office. But after reading Where Have All the Leaders Gone, you can’t help but wish he would.