Overcoming Leadership Challenges – Part 2 : Current Times

Second part. Read the first part here.

There are several successful leaders from recent times that practiced Hannibal-like leadership style; A.P. Giannini is one of them – the man who created the largest bank in the United States, the Bank of America. Like Hannibal, Giannini started working at an early age and taught himself the ropes of the business. He believed in the unconventional ways of running banks such as lending loans to immigrants when no one else did. In addition, he was also very innovative and quickly adapted to situations. For example, when fires began to spread to cities from the destructive earthquake many banks saved their deposits in steel vaults for protection. However, anticipating the damage fire would have on steel, Giannini knew it would take weeks before they will be able to open the vault. So unlike other bankers, Giannini decided to remove the gold and securities from his vaults before and was immediately able to lend loans to thousands of people who suffered from the earthquake. In addition, while other banks were struggling to open their vaults, Giannini learned the importance of having a geographical presence of banks. This resulted in purchases of small banks in different states and made Bank of American the first bank to cross state lines. Lastly, like Hannibal, Giannini was not in it for the money; each year he only paid himself $50,000 and toward the end of his career when he was awarded $1.5 million bonus, he donated it to University of California.

Throughout his lifetime, Hannibal had to make numerous difficult decisions in times of crisis and motivated soldiers to continue their support while together achieving that common goal. Likewise, Lee Iacocca is an inspiring individual who saved the desperate Chrysler Corporation. Before joining Chrysler in 1978, Iacocca was president at Ford Motor Company and developed popular models like Mustang. However, the CEO of Ford did not like Iacocca and despite all of Iacocca’s accomplishments for the company, he refused to make him the CEO; shortly after which Iacocca was let-go from Ford.

At the same time, Chrysler was facing a tremendous amount of challenges and was quickly reaching complete shutdown. Iacocca accepted Chrysler’s offer for the CEO position and agreed to not take any compensation unless the company got back up on its feet. Iacocca understood the severity of the situation, however, like Hannibal was driven to destroy Rome, Iacocca ultimately wanted to prove Ford wrong for letting him go. To bring the company around, Iacocca had to persuade the federal government to lend loans to Chrysler arguing that the country could not afford for such a huge domestic auto manufacturers to fail. The Congress agreed to loan Chrysler $1.5 billion with the condition that it will pay back the government $2 billion on its own.
To bring change to the organization Iacocca had to make tough decisions; he had to persuade and gain the trust of workers to accept layoffs and cut wages to save the company. Iacocca decided to discontinue production of less popular models and introduced a new line of models, same which were rejected at Ford and ultimately became Chrysler’s most profitable lineup. Lastly, Iacocca went public to improve companies reputation and was featured in a commercial with the slogan of The pride is back.
In the end, Chrysler regained its reputation and profits while paying back the government much in advance. This was all made possible because of Iacocca’s Hannibal-like leadership style where he was driven by his mission and made others believe in his mission too.
In conclusion, Hannibal was a leader whose sole motivator was his mission and not personal gain of wealth; which I think played a major role in his success. He was a sharp thinker and was able to effectively bring unconventional ideas to life. In today’s competitive business world, this “translates into doing what has never been done before in industries where giants like Rome already exist.”

Moreover, I personally liked the comparison of Hannibal and Iacocca. The reason beginning is that in the recent recession the American auto industry faced a similar situation where they had to convince the government that they were “too big to fail”. Despite the scrutiny from the public, the auto industry was awarded bailout money. And fortunately, like before they came back stronger and began paying back to the government. In addition, Chrysler used the same come-back approach as they did in the 1980s where it introduced new innovative models like the all-electric Volt and the Imported from Detroit slogan.

I think the example of Chrysler beautifully shows that despite the changing times the successful leadership styles are the same. Like Hannibal, current leaders need to demonstrate an “irresistible will, intense focus, and a disciplined approach” in order to be successful and lead.


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