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Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership [Kindle Edition]

Bob Lutz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $15.96 (59%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

“Most successful leaders are mentally and emotionally askew. There’s a good side, which gets the job done. There’s often also a downside that makes them hard to understand or difficult to work for. It’s precisely that they are impatient, stubborn, opinionated, unsatisfied, and domineering that makes them successful.”

When Bob Lutz retired from General Motors in 2010, after an unparalleled forty-seven-year career in the auto industry, he was one of the most respected leaders in American business. He had survived all kinds of managers over those decades: tough and timid, analytical and irrational, charismatic and antisocial, and some who seemed to shift frequently among all those traits. His experiences made him an expert on leadership, every bit as much as he was an expert on cars and trucks.

Now Lutz is revealing the leaders—good, bad, and ugly—who made the strongest impression on him throughout his career. Icons and Idiots is a collection of shocking and often hilarious true stories and the lessons Lutz drew from them. From enduring the sadism of a Marine Corps drill instructor, to working with a washed-up alcoholic, to taking over the reins from a convicted felon, he reflects on the complexities of all-too-human leaders. No textbook or business school course can fully capture their idiosyncrasies, foibles and weaknesses – which can make or break companies in the real world.

Lutz shows that we can learn just as much from the most stubborn, stupid, and corrupt leaders as we can from the inspiring geniuses. He offers fascinating profiles of icons and idiots such as...

Eberhard von Kuenheim. The famed CEO of BMW was an aristocrat-cum-street fighter who ruled with secrecy, fear, and deft maneuvering.

Harold A. “Red” Poling: A Ford CEO and the ultimate bean counter. If it couldn’t be quantified, he didn’t want to know about it.

Lee Iacocca: The legendary Chrysler CEO appeared to be brillant and bold, but was often vulnerable and insecure behind the scenes.

G. Richard “Rick” Wagoner: The perfect peacetime CEO whose superior intelligence couldn’t save GM from steep decline and a government bailout.

As Lutz writes:

We’ll examine bosses who were profane, insensitive, totally politically incorrect, and who “appropriated” insignificant items from hotels or the company. We’ll visit the mind of a leader who did little but sit in his office. We’ll look at another boss who could analyze a highly complex profit-and-loss statement or a balance sheet at a glance, yet who, at times, failed to grasp the simplest financial mechanisms—how things actually worked in practice to create the numbers in the real world.

The result is a powerful and entertaining guide for any aspiring leader.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lutz (Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, 2011) spent 47 years in the car industry, working for iconic automakers GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. In his career, he witnessed leadership personalities from the admirable to the buffoonish. But he goes beyond his car career to offer a disparate collection of portraits of leaders, from his high-school teacher and marine drill instructor to Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler. Most leaders are mentally and emotionally askew, he asserts as he portrays the men (they’re all men) he worked with or under as demanding, often offensive, brutally honest, and sometimes borderline cruel. He remembers Iacocca as an insecure man threatened by subordinates; another auto executive seems to fit the idiot portion of the title. Still, Lutz finds some leadership qualities, or at least cautionary examples of what not to do, in each of his subjects. And it seems to be the point of these entertaining, insightful behind-the-scenes tales of corporate culture that, while leadership can come in all kinds of quirky packages, the greatest benefit lies in the lasting impact it has on the people who work for him—or her. --Vanessa Bush

About the Author

Bob Lutz had a legendary 47-year career as one of the most respected "car guys" in history. He held senior leadership positions at four of the world's leading automakers--GM, Ford, Chrysler, and BMW. He was most recently the vice chairman of General Motors from 2001 to 2010, the years leading up to and through GM's bankruptcy. He is the bestselling author of Guts: 8 Laws of Business from One of the Most Innovative Business Leaders of Our Time and Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. 

Product Details

  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591846048
  • Publisher: Portfolio (June 4, 2013)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AMOO97Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,318 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile gleanings on the essence of leadership June 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read Mr. Lutz' previous book CAR GUYS AND BEAN COUNTERS. Like some other reviewers, I panned it --- not because Mr. Lutz is a bad writer, but because he told the story of our auto industry's demise like an autopsy. There was no way to sugarcoat the story of a failing industry in order to make it an exciting read.

But I did enjoy Mr. Lutz' style of writing (plus his outspoken appearances on CNBC). I wondered if he had other, more positive stories to tell about his management of auto design in the U.S. and Europe. This book tells those positive and often amusing stories. Although the subject of leadership has been written about to the point of becoming hackneyed, Mr. Lutz does bring to the table a couple of interesting insights and anecdotes.

Lutz explains his purpose at the beginning:

THIS BOOK is about leaders and leadership. No "recipes" are offered; it's a compendium from my more than sixty years of observation while basking in the glow of inspirational leaders, trying my utmost to validate my employment to the tough, sometimes irrational ones, and marveling at the multifaceted, ever-shifting personalities of some of the quirky ones, wondering, at times, how they ever achieved their lofty positions.

We'll examine past bosses who were profane, insensitive, totally politically incorrect, and who "appropriated" insignificant items from hotels or the company...We'll look at another boss who could analyze a highly complex profit-and-loss statement or a balance sheet at a glance, yet who, at times, failed to grasp the simplest financial mechanisms-- how things actually worked in practice to create the numbers in the real world.

He profiles the eleven leaders who he says most shaped his life.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and candid to the core June 13, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I worked for Mr. Lutz during his final time at GM. He often wrote short epistles sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics and he welcomed responses. I responded to "often wrong, never in doubt" and his office called me for a personal chat. It was a highlight of my career. I found this work to be a little self promoting but this man is entitled to that. He really tried to change the culture at GM but no one individual is capable of doing that. His comments about looking good, talking well and never taking issue with your boss perfectly describes the GM culture. Bob encouraged people to bring their brains to work. He called things as he saw them and he was a kind, motivating gentleman who had problems offering much criticism of most people he profiled in this work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By one of the great "car guys" October 18, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a Ford dealer, I met a few of the subjects in Bob's book. I wondered why I had such a hard time talking to Phil Caldwell. Now, after reading this book, I know. I sat beside a lovely lady on a cocktail party at the Anglers Club in Key Largo. This was 1980 and we were all scrambling financially including the company. The nice lady asked me what I thought of Phil Caldwell. I replied politely that any comment was beyond my pay grade as Mr Caldwell was the Chairman of the Company and I was just a dealer. I was informed later that the lady was Mrs Ford. My neighbour in Florida was a VP at Ford and we talked a lot. He said that he knew Bob Lutz and I should meet him because we talk about the same things all of the time. Maybe someday I will meet the man who influenced what we drive today more than anyone in the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Self Serving September 20, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Littered with self aggrandizement.Always had better thoughts than others.Intriguing that he himself never quite reached the pinnacle of his industry.No real intellectual substance,but the themes of the incidents he quotes are amusing to those who have some inside knowledge of the industry.The comparison of the ethics of the German industry with the situation in the US is relative but not absolute.I guess "where you sit depends on where you stand"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet. November 25, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I like this guy, but he's stealing his money with this book. Very brief and kind of struck me as something he threw together over a long weekend. Marines will surely appreciate his DI, and his recollections of working in Germany also ring true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A crisp read but at times a bit inappropriate October 8, 2013
By Arlo
In general Bob Lutz's book was crisply written and gave insights into leadership and that leaders are human and have strength and weaknesses. The book was a series of vignettes about leaders he has worked with followed up by a cogent epilogue that summarizes his management philosophies.

At times, the book was a bit of corporate kiss and tell. While likely accurate, I believe that highlighting the idiosyncracies of folks not in the public realm is not appropriate (e.g. Sgt. Giusto, Bob Wachtler). Giving performance reviews on his subjects while not providing one on himself or even a 360, is a bit cowardly. The weighting Bob Lutz provides is telling and possibly indicative of why the American automobile industry is in such a state (e.g. flexibility). While Bob has a good reputation as an executive, he still presided over the corporate equivalent of a failed state.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay October 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Pretty much old fashioned stuff. Nothing new. I expected more from Mr. Lutz. However, it is a quick read and mildly entertaining.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Been there, done that! October 5, 2013
By Bobh
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After a 40 year career in Automobile Engineering, and at some time being under Bob Lutz's leadership, there were many experiences related I lived thru.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lutz is GOD
Lutz rules! No nonsense common sense fired from a .50 Desert Eagle. Not for the pen pushers, weak hearted unpassionate dullards that blunt most things brilliant.
Published 11 days ago by John Neary Anker
4.0 out of 5 stars Good description of some famous names in the car industry
Enjoyable book by a "car guy" about his development in the industry and early stories of how he came to be who he is. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Mike Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars leadership defined
Great insight as to the inner workings of the auto industry leadership that defined Detroit and the world for so many years.
Published 1 month ago by Lawrence J. Kearney Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book by A Great "Car Guy"
Having spent 30 years in the car industry, I enjoyed reading Lutz's assessment of the various leaders in this field. I think he nails it.
Published 2 months ago by Robert A. Borg
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Homerun for BOB
Another wonderfully well written from Bob Lutz. He shows the auto industry leaders to be the actual idiots that those of us who actually worked in it.........knew them to be. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sandi M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Any Level of Leader Will Benefit
Bob Lutz once again writes with a style that is easy to read and straightforward. Great book for anyone at any level of leadership.
Published 3 months ago by Robert D. Lyons
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent--- What a Guy
As always,as Mr.Lutz has lived his life and how it's been written, He is what we call Presidential material... He would be a good one, he is what America needs...
Published 4 months ago by william friedrich
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read and nicely written
Really good read, written in a way that is easy and captivating to read. Recommend for anyone dealing with different people types, being or wanting to be a manager
Published 5 months ago by Juha Pieviläinen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I have read all of Bob's books and I find this one to be as good or better than the last. It has motivated me to review my leadership style and improve on how I do business.
Published 5 months ago by Jason G.
5.0 out of 5 stars Car enthusiasts must-read
The straight scoop on all the notables in the auto industry is revealed. Now we know the rest of the story. Norm
Published 5 months ago by Norman C. Oien
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