Friday, May 21, 2004

Chrysler's Iacoca a whiff of Jekyll, Hyde story

Business Times p.B3
Friday, May 21, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Chrysler’s Iacocca a whiff of Jekyll, Hyde story

ENRICO G. Belmonte writes: “You mentioned the first part of the Chrysler story, which was well documented in a best-selling book authored by Iacocca himself. Here is the second part of the story, which is not well known.

”After nursing Chrysler back to health, Iacocca went into a buying spree, buying companies unrelated to Chrysler’s core business. Thereafter the company went back to financial trouble. Iacocca was criticized for laying off thousands of employees to cut costs while at the same time giving himself large pay increase. He clung to his position of Chair even after he reached mandatory retirement age. Eventually he was “persuaded” to give up the Chairmanship.

After retirement, Iacocca together with corporate raider Kirk Kerkorian unsuccessfully attempted a hostile takeover of Chrys­ler. The com­pany’s weakened position led to a buyout by Daimler Benz. That ended the story of Chrysler as independent company.

All told, Iacocca is still an admired business leader.”

Iacocca, indeed, did a Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde.

Towards the end, in this Robert Louis Stevenson story, Dr. Jekyll went home once again but every time he would fall asleep, he would revert to Mr. Hyde. Soon, his potions began to fail to work and he ran out of the salt needed for the potion. Hyde launches a desperate search across London for this potion, but was unsuccessful. In the end, Hyde kills himself, and Jekyll, too.

As what happened, Iacocca practiced a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde leadership. His Dr. Jekyll formula for Chrysler was successful at first but when more and more his Mr. Hyde’s insatiable desire for profit persistently showed itself at the expense of his employees. The rest is history, so to speak.

One important lesson here for entrepreneurs is that it’s best to stick to the core strategic driver of your organization at all times, good or bad. Ambivalence has no room in business.

Here’s more reactions from our readers.

Nina Gancita: Just wanted to say thank you again for this wonderful article. I am eager to share this with our President. I am relatively new to the field of HR/Admin and your articles really give me a lot of insights and information about various things. Admittedly, we are having a hard time changing the culture of our organization, perhaps it is because we are simply acting as managers and administrators instead of being effective leaders as well. Your article hit its mark in our organization, and perhaps in a lot of organizations, too, where most of the managers get caught up with the demands of the job and forget (or lose sight of) the importance of being a good leader.

Maleah Gildore: Just finished reading your article. I’ll start to have clippings every week to serve as my reference. I hope you can help me. I am preparing a Manual on Entrepreneurship. I’ll contact you re this matter.

(Due to limited space, please email Moje at moje@my­ if you want more discussions. She’ll respond to you even as she attends ASTD Conference in Washington DC.)

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