In every organization, whether collegial, participatory, democratic, hierarchical, or any other kind of management system, there has to be a single person in charge of achieving each goal and at each point of responsibility. There has to be a place where, as President Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.”
When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler Corporation in 1979, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. The first thing he found upon arriving was that there were thirty-six vice presidents of Chrysler Corporation worldwide, each of whom had his own fiefdom. Each of them was in competition with the other vice presidents. There was no clear leadership. If someone did not agree with a senior management decision, they simply delayed and dragged their feet on the decision and eventually assured that nothing got done.
Iacocca immediately took command. He reorganized the corporation, fired thirty-five of the thirty-six vice presidents, went to Congress to get a loan guarantee, renegotiated Chrysler’s loans with more than 400 banks, renegotiated con- tracts with 350,000 Chrysler workers, and renegotiated prices with 4,000 suppliers. Within four years, he had turned the company around, paid back the loans in full, and generated 350 million dollars in profits. Lee Iacocca will always be remembered for this feat as one of the great business leaders of the twentieth century.
When IBM ran into serious trouble in 1991 and 1992, Lou Gerstner was brought from RJR Nabisco as the new president. He immediately took command. He reorganized the company and its divisions to make them more competitive. He consolidated some divisions with others and discontinued product and service areas that were no longer profitable. Within two years, he had turned IBM around, from losses to profits, and put the company back on the map. Under his leadership, the IBM stock price increased more than 700 percent!
Jack Welch, arguably the finest chief executive of the twentieth century, led General Electric to forty-eight consecutive quarters of increased profits. He turned an $800-million-dollar- a-year company into a $50-billion-dollar international giant. He projected his vision with his leadership maxims, such as, “If we don’t have competitive advantage, we won’t compete” and “We will be either number one or number two in every market segment, or we will get out of that business.”
In every case, successful business leaders are those who accurately assess the needs of the situation, make clear decisions, and then take vigorous action. Leaders form a clear idea of what needs to be done. They then have the ability to communicate this vision to everyone whose help will be required to fulfill it. They motivate everyone around them to work toward common goals. Unity of command, based on clear objectives, offensive action, concentration of powers, the ability to maneuver, excellent intelligence and knowledge of the market situation—all lead to concerted action and business victory.