Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls
June 14, 2013
Bob Lutz and Rick Wagoner were cut from different management cloth, according to Lutz in his new book, ICONS AND IDIOTS: Straight Talk on Leadership.
Lutz, as General Motors vice chairman, relied heavily on his instincts, while Wagoner, as GM CEO, was deeply data driven. The two executives didn't always see eye to eye, but they did get along.
"In contrast to other executives I've known in my career," Lutz writes "... Rick Wagoner showed little in the way of 'peculiarities.' As a leader he was always polite, kind and ready to hear opposing views without anger or even visible irritation. His executive suite was modest, as was his style: he eschewed executive trappings and even excessive compensation."
But Lutz says Wagoner tended to overfocus on process to the detriment of creativity and was too loyal to some ineffective underlings.
In his book, Lutz profiles several auto industry notables he encountered during his long career, as well as a high school teacher in Switzerland and his Marine Corps drill instructor.
In the following excerpt, Lutz reflects on Wagoner, who in 2001 hired the then-69-year-old former Chrysler, Ford, BMW and Opel executive as GM's head of product development. The two men worked together closely until Wagoner's departure in 2009 in the midst of GM's bankruptcy proceedings -- President Obama having taken Wagoner up on his offer to resign.
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