Lead Like A Girl

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This blog isn’t about politics; it’s about Leadership. That said, every once in a great while those two theoretically connected topics actually intersect. In those rare instances, talking about Leadership is more important than avoiding talking about politics.

Which brings me to last night’s GOP debate. These “Battle Royale” formats are designed more for visual entertainment than in-depth issue analysis, and involve political candidates for whom empty campaign promises are a historical, bi-partisan tradition.  As a result, if you’re the kind of voter who is looking for laid-out plans and positions on issues as a reliable predictor of what a candidate will do or not do if elected President, the food-fight format of primary debates will not serve you well at all.

However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth watching at all. What you can learn by enduring the effort to watch the spectacle (it is work, for sure) is something about the people running for the post, if you know what to look for and are paying attention. After all, for all of the many hats to wear and responsibilities to manage, being the world’s most important Leader is the first and foremost job of the President of the United States. As voters, we are the hiring committee for history’s most important leadership post, so understanding each candidate’s understanding of Leadership and their aptitude for it is paramount.

Through this prism, one person was in a class of one last night, and her name is Carly Fiorina. Set aside policy matters and consider what was observable or now known about her as it relates to leadership:

  • Ascending from an entry position of secretary to the heights of major tech company CEO gives a depth of human experience and empathy in dealing with people;
  • Being a global company’s Chief Executive in a world where failure isn’t generally protected, let alone promoted, gives  an understanding of accountability for delivering results, not mere rhetoric;
  • Confronting a stale culture that reveres “what always has been” and driving change through it evidences a thick skin and willingness to do the hard work of breaking the imprisoning cocoon of the Status Quo;
  • Getting publicly fired removes any sense of entitlement from a leader humble enough to recognize the reality that everyone is replaceable, whether justified or not;
  • Going to war with breast cancer introduces a healthy perspective on life that often only comes from staring at Death;
  • Losing a child to the toxic cocktail of alcoholism, mental illness, and drug addiction forever pierces the veil of wealth, status, and privilege, connecting even the most aristocratic to the pain suffered by so many “regular” Americans.

If her history at HP is any indication, Carly Fiorina will approach the leadership aspect of the Presidency in a much different manner from the more conventional, political types who seek it:

What does this tell us about Carly? First off, that her priority is not going to be to take the “safe” route that does little to fulfill her responsibilities, but which does much to protect her personal reputation and brand (the kind of thing Americans are sick and tired of seeing out of career politicians).

Whether the hiring committee that is the American People will see fit to hire Carly Fiorina as our next CEO remains to be seen. That said, as a person who demonstrates an unconventional collection of the ingredients of dynamic leadership, she is a fascinating study.