ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is consensus always necessary?

There were some interesting articles in the Wall St. Journal this past week. One that really struck me was on Sunday, June 11th called “Life Lessons from the Car Guy.” This was from an interview with Bob Lutz, the former Chrysler and GM executive.

Mr. Lutz talks about his experience with four different CEOs at GM over a period of 16 months and notes that since GM had so many different product lines, it needed a CEO who would work with and respect the experience and decisions of its top leaders. It needed to find the right leaders for each division.

By contrast, Chrysler had one product: cars. Mr. Lutz talks about an autocratic leader at Chrysler and wonders “But, does the autocrat, no matter how gifted, create sustainable success? Or, does his style drive away other capable leaders who would form a leadership team after the great man’s departure?” Although he questions the sustainability of this approach, he does acknowledge: “… but if the purpose of leadership is to drive results, chalk up one major victory for the supremely skilled autocrat.”

Mr. Lutz contrasts this with what struck me as a mind-numbing, creativity destroying process of “thoroughly sharing … and showing respect for other people’s ‘emotional equity’” which created “stability, balance and equilibrium”.

This reminds me of the chapter in my Conflict Resolution book about “The Tyranny of Pleasantness.” When does being nice to others disintegrate into bad decisions?
Mr. Lutz goes on to talk about his desire to infuse everyone with love of perfection and customer delight in even the smallest details. This is what we try to teach in my course: Quality and Performance Excellence. As I read this, I remembered that I used to love driving Chryslers – but stopped buying them after the company was sold. They are now ordinary, think back though to the LeBaron convertible when it first came out – that was an example of exciting excellence –and I was a very satisfied customer.

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