“We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” – Lee Iacocca
Last week, Lee Iacocca passed away at the age of 94. The seminal businessman and dynamic executive led not one, but two of the ‘Big 3’ car manufacturers – Ford and Chrysler. But it’s his 2007 book Where Have All The Leaders Gone? that first popped into my mind when I heard his name. In that book, Iacocca asserts that there are ten “C” tests to measure a leader: Curiosity, Creative, Communicate, Character, Courage, Conviction, Charisma, Competent, Common-Sense, and Crisis. And in that book, he asked, “Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage?” When I read that, it resonated so deeply that I thought he was talking directly to me. And it I thought about it again for the last week.
Then yesterday, we cheered on our Women’s Soccer Team to another World Cup victory. And the Byline quickly became about Gender Pay Equality. And perhaps rightly so, with the women’s team possibly earning substantially less than their male counterparts. It’s a complicated issue/lawsuit because straight apples-to-apples comparison is tough. The earnings are different based upon the collective-bargaining agreements which outline completely different pay structures. Nonetheless, this is something leaders should address. And no one is in better position right now than the USA Women’s Soccer Team to bring this to the National level. But can they?
Everything today is so polarizing, so hyper-partisan, so “either/or”. And it’s getting in the way. Take Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Captain. She wields tremendous influence both on and off the field. But she has already said that she won’t go to the White House because of her animosity towards President Trump all the while refusing to place her hand over her heart during our National Anthem in “protest”. Does that help? I immediately thought about something Iacocca said in his book: “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere.” Too true. Instead of taking the opportunity to use the invitation as a platform to speak directly to Trump about this issue, she instead is choosing the path of ‘agitator’, not ‘leader’.
You see, leadership is hard; it’s messy. That’s because we have to deal with people. And people are complicated creatures. Sometimes, leaders have to work with people with whom they particularly don’t care to be around. But it’s easy to avoid something you don’t want to do. And it takes no skill at all to stoke the fires of division, play office politics, and pit people against each other. Bad managers do it all the time and unfortunately, we’ve all experienced this at some point.
It takes courage, conviction, and charisma to take the hard-right over the easy-wrong; to do the things that nobody wants to do but needs to be done. What we need now are people who can rise above their own differences to begin solving the most pressing challenges we face. What we need are leaders.