For today’s CEOs, lessons from master speaker Lee Iacocca

The Chrysler chief’s speechwriting team shares how today’s execs can inspire employees and customers alike with candor and a great narrative.

Lee Iacocca, former head of Chrysler, was certainly the first and arguably the biggest CEO “rock star.”

Yes, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have also gained fame far beyond the business world. But no other corporate leader has scored the pop culture quad-fecta of being a “Jeopardy!” category, guest starring on “Miami Vice,” being the answer to a clue in The New York Times crossword puzzle, and getting assassinated in “The Watchmen” movie. (OK. It was a lookalike actor playing Iacocca).

Iacocca’s autobiography was a world best-seller. And, in 1988, there was also a strong “draft Iacocca for president” movement.

Iacocca’s business success—saving Chrysler and reinvigorating the American automobile industry in the 1980s—has also become a staple of B-school “case studies.” And most analysts agree a key ingredient—what Iacocca himself called “my most important management tool” —was the spoken word. “I used that tool every day,” Iacocca wrote.

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