When a leader steps down to save the company

John Riccardo was the CEO of Chrysler who hired Lee Iacocca.

Iacocca later wrote in his autobiography, “John was sacrificing himself to save the company. He was over his head and he knew it. He blew himself out of the water to bring Chrysler back to life.” Iacocca paid Riccardo the ultimate compliment by calling him “a real hero.”

Two things stand out in Iaccoca’s praise for Riccardo, and both are important to leadership. Let’s take them one at a time.

Self-awareness is a form of self-knowledge that emerges when you know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. A self-aware leader knows when he can succeed as well as when he’s licked. Such a leader has the strength of character to step aside in favor of a better alternative. It’s not quitting; it’s called sacrificing for a better alternative.

Sacrifice is a practice not much talked about in business. The concept of sacrifice when framed as doing the greater good is something we attribute to first-responders and service personnel.

It is not something business people get much credit for. But some like John Riccardo deserve our remembrance.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2017, Trust Across America named him a Top Thought Leader in Trust for the fourth consecutive year. In 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 100 leadership experts, and Global Gurus ranked him No. 11 on its list of global leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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