Carly Fiorina lead a Fortune 20 company and was actually the first woman to do this. This ranking was based on the importance of a woman’s work in the global environment, her influence in the company, arc of her career and her influence on mass culture and society. Quickly rising through the ranks of AT&T and Lucent Technologies, Carly Fiorina became one of the most powerful businesswomen in the United States. She was the group president of Global Service Provider business at Lucent Technologies Inc and was Mr Rich McGinn’s choice to be the executive vice president of corporate operations of the company.
She had excellent sales skills and an ability to build consensus. She would take a lot of risks. Carly Fiorina was known for being “comfortable in uncomfortable situations”. (Ancona et. al. 14-28) She used the opportunity in AT & T and jumped to the Network Systems group and did amazingly well there. This was all because she was able to recognize the telephone equipment manufacturing business unit’s potential for a growth in the markets. She added a personal touch that inspired intense loyalty among followers.
She would praise the employees who achieved big contracts publicly by giving flowers and balloons. This was not confined to business; she even helped sick family members of the Lucent Technologies employees get emotional support, medical advice and doctors on time. (Ancona et. al. 14-28) She had a savvy approach to customers and there were instances when she achieved daring goals in a time span less than the targeted ones (Ancona et. al. 14-28). In order to initiate a transformation in HP, someone was required. (Ancona et. al. 4-29)
So the executive-search committee established a set of criteria and she fulfilled four of them already which included an ability to formulate and communicate broad strategies, a deep knowledge of operations, a talent for creating a sense of urgency around change, ability to craft a compelling vision of HP’s roles in the Internet economy, then communicate that vision throughout the organization. She took over as the CEO of Hewlett Packard in 1999. She had a strong ally in HP board member Richard Hackborn. Both believed that HP had to be reinvented. He fought hard for her appointment.
To HP, she brought leadership and savvy marketing and sales techniques. Her understanding that what the customers ask for is not always the same as what they need was one of her strengths. When she entered HP, she knew that a lot of changes were required in the company. She had a vision and was not afraid of telling it to the world. She had a self-confidence that she only has the power and responsibility to do what she wanted with her life (Ancona et. al. 14-27) and also knew the importance of facing up to your own feelings and stating what is on your mind. (Ancona et. al. 4-27)
She stayed away from the HP way and brought in a different leadership style and charisma. Her meteoric rise was also caused because of marketing and customer-relations savvy, her personal charisma which included features such as ability to laugh easily, direct gaze and her willingness to speak her mind and most importantly, her talent for making this happen quickly. (Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen, Westney 14-26) According to Fiorina, the quicker and clearer the truth about what needs to be done is realized and what is acceptable performance is clearly defined, the more effective a leader you would be. (Ancona et. l. 14-27)
This, she learnt from her parents and she believed that she gained strength from them. She believed in making changes at a real fast pace and according to the changes in the market. She made a strong emphasis on the creative use of communication. “Effective leadership requires an understanding that you don’t own people, that you can’t control people. They must want to, they must choose to be in the company of others, oriented towards a particular mission. That means. A great deal of communication; it means using communication vehicles really creatively. ” (Ancona et. al. 14-31) Factors leading to her spectacular fall:
Carly Fiorina made changes to HP’s culture. This was against what was being practiced all the way long. HP had been found by two engineers and its management methods had been praised over time (Ancona et. al. 14-29) as the company had set the standards by which other high-tech firms were judged. With the legendary success and reputation, HP was not keen in remaking the culture of the company. She made changes to the vision of the company as well by changing it from a company providing stand-alone products to a company that offered customers an integrated suite of information appliances, highly reliable IT infrastructure and e-services.
In order to balance the changes in vision and strategy, she had to make changes in the organizational structure too. So she realigned it. (Ancona et. al. 14-30) She marketed HP’s new identity as well. (Ancona et. al. 14-31) She had never worked for HP before. The company’s founders were engineers, she was a marketer. Her expertise was not in operations, it was in sales and marketing. Her critics believed that Carly was a rude outsider who was not following HP’s established practices. She emphasized speed and suggested the merger between Compaq and HP.
Some people felt that she was trying to do too much too soon. (Ancona et. al. 14-32) She had not been able to convince Walter Hewlett, a board member and son of co-founder of HP, the advantages of this merging and despite his disagreement she managed to get it implemented. This merging meant cutting down 15000 jobs and reorganizing the structure into four large units. Being a female, there was an issue of gender bias. It is very difficult for a powerful and influential woman to survive in a corporate world which is dominated by women.
Another important reason for her downfall is that she centralized the decision making process. It was a decentralized process earlier and some of the insiders wanted more of explicit reasoning behind her decisions. She had message boards for communicating with workers but this was considered an act of being distant and out of touch. Despite Carly Fiorina’s stellar track record of success- and popularity- when it came time to lead the giant engine of Hewlett-Packard, she displayed an errant overconfidence in her ability to run the train solo. (Irwin 90) Other members were needed too.
But she never realized it. Once, she was photographed before a mock-up of the garage where in the HP founders had begun the business, she was accused of trying to connect herself to a legacy to which she had not contributed. (Ancona et. al. 14-31)These issues were all turning her employees and others against her or having doubts about her in their minds. Implications for leadership ethics that can be drawn from her experience: Leadership ethics deals with fair practices with regards to management and it is powered via strong principles and values.
Ethical leaders function as moral persons, behaving morally in their leadership roles and seen as honest and caring individuals with fair decision making skills. Ethical leaders must promote ethical conduct in followers. They create positive ethical climates (Johnson 2). Job security is important for every employee. Carly Fiorina encouraged her managers to fire the poorly working employees. Her merging HP and Compaq led to around 15000 people losing their jobs. This was unethical. After stepping in as a CEO, she prioritized financial performance to the employee satisfaction and growth.
In one of her meetings she said, “Let me make something very clear. You will make your numbers. There will be no excuses. And if you can’t make your numbers, I will find someone who can”. (Johnson 1). She kept good connections with employees who performed well by recognizing their achievements. Carly Fiorina offered support and care to her employee’s sick relative. She was unable to maintain good relations with the company’s founder’s children. They were upset about the idea of merging between HP and Compaq.
They stated that they would vote their shares but Carly Fiorina reacted in a fierce way by press releases and advertisements against them. Channel stuffing was taking place in HP soon where in the employees tried offering incentives to the customers in order to sell their products in a greater quantity. Carly Fiorina did not encourage or discourage it. Analysts, who had long looked to HP as a model of integrity, began to question HP’s quarterly reports. (Johnson 3)
Compassion, humility and integrity were lacking in her. So she is an ethically neutral leader. Johnson 3) Leadership lessons learnt so that you will be a better leader: Firstly, the leader must possess the appropriate skills required by that job position, in this case, operational skills. A leader’s success or failure depends pretty much on moral reasoning as it does on strategic thinking (Johnson 2). The leader must also possess virtues such as integrity, compassion and humility. One of the mistakes committed by Carly Fiorina is the drastic change which she tried to bring about in the company in a very short stretch of time.
Her vision was for the company’s benefit but her strategies were not implemented with the consent of all members of the board. Also, before making a huge change to the cultural organization of the company, plans must be well- thought of. Emphasizing on speed, every decision was taken in a hurry. Decentralized decision making had been followed traditionally; suddenly translating this to a centralized approach did not really work out. This should have been thought of. The employees should be convinced to have faith in the company as well as their superiors.
This leads to a sense of trust by the employees on their superior and also a team spirit. Job security should be provided. They should be recognized depending on their performance level. A company is enhanced by its motivated employees and managers and a huge company like HP requires many workers. It is not a good idea to strip them off their jobs because of company merging. Before thinking of strategies, the company background must be studied well and so should its performance levels, profits, loss and economic data.
Leaders must take risks after considering market conditions and the company’s capacity to withhold it. Ethics are not to be forgotten. Consumers are important and products must be invented according to the needs of the customer. The company’s profit sharing plan followed earlier was better than the one introduced by Carly Fiorina where in all employees received bonuses if the company achieved its desired targets. The board of members must be more active, supervise the role of the CEO and see to it that ethical practices are alone conducted.