Cadillac, “The Tribute to Initiative”

Theodore MacManus

The measure of a man’s success is the influence which he exerts upon other men. It is not merely what he says, or thinks, or even what he does. It is determined by the extent to which he moulds and models other men to his way of speaking and thinking and doing. When the public mind or conscience begins to pattern itself after the mind and conscience of an individual—that individual has begun to taste of true greatness. And in a different, and perhaps in a lesser sense, that which is true of the individual, is true of the business institution. The success of a business institution is in proportion to the influence which it exerts upon the industry of which it is a part. When a great industry begins to shape its policies, its principles and its product after the pattern set by a single business institution—that one institution has become vastly more than a mere money-making machine. It has developed into a creative and a compelling force. The great man does not merely bring other men to his way of thinking. He induces them to translate those thoughts into deeds and into conduct. He causes them to abate and set aside their own judgment, and to substitute his clearer, better judgment. He persuades them to throw away something of their own and to substitute something of his which is better. The greatest of all victories is that bloodless triumph which comes of self conquest—the subjugation of self to that which is right and good. And its finest fruit is the peaceful conquest of other hearts and other minds. Again, in a different, and maybe in a lesser sense, this is true of business institutions. They have begun to taste of true success only when they have induced a great industry to abate, to abandon, to throw away, to substitute, to conform. Consider what it means to conquer in turn, by the silent force of example, the intellect of the draftsman, the designer, the engineer, the executive, the directing boards of other great institutions. Consider the dead weight of opposition which must be overcome in an organization before it can persuade itself to follow the example of another. Confronted with such a problem in his affairs, the mind of the manufacturer must run the gamut of business emotions. He must subjugate his pride; he must fight off his fear; he must master his uncertainty; he must conquer his doubt—and stake his entire destiny on the decision. His engineers have been committed, perhaps, to other principles, and may be reluctant to adopt a new principle. His selling organization has been committed to the old product but must recast its policy to conform to the new. Capital, seeing hundreds-of-thousands in money needed for new machinery and other hundreds-of-thousands discarded in old machinery, wonders why the old, profitable, less progressive product is not good enough. Wherever he goes in his own institution, there is doubt and discouragement—but over against it the steadily shining beacon-light of that other great success. Its radiance is all around him. The pressure of public opinion pushes him persistently toward its emulation. So he resolutely pockets his pride, sets aside his own judgment, abandons the old policies and begins to build another product, patterned after ideals which are not his own. When that is accomplished, there is paid the highest tribute which intellect can pay to intellect. After that, the process goes on and on. Millions in money and tons of machinery are dedicated to the pursuit of the new inspiration. A hundred brains, as it were, accept the dictum of one brain. A score of business institutions tacitly admit the wisdom of one business institution. A dozen products endeavor to conform to the one product. Then, indeed, is the tribute complete. A unit has indelibly stamped itself upon the whole. The industry crowns the individual institution. And the world adds the seal of unstinted endorsement.