Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Her Story"



In quotes because I stole it (the title) from the Economist.

Is there any point in writing this post...whatever.

The Economist has a review on Carly Fiorina's account of her years at the helm of Hewlett Packard and the betrayal of her ouster by the board. So why the questioning on the value of this post? I'm writing about a review of a book I haven't read. That's almost...literary incest. I actually followed Carly through her years as CEO with great interest. I'm very strong on equality although not on any form or philosophy based on affirmative action. You may have noticed from my name that I am part of a visible minority. I know and understand exclusion, injustice, unfairness. My view on these issues in a first-world country are - Tough! Get over it. Yes, I've had many problems linked to my race but I can focus on them and become a victim or on what lies within my 'sphere of influence' (thanks Stephen) and do something to overcome them. That is what interested me most about Carly and the challenges of similar women in business. They have got to where they are not just because of talent but largely because of a determination to overcome stereotypes and discrimination. I was not, however, too impressed during the years of her leadership of HP by her bravado and posturing. She too often went over the edge in compensating - but was it compensation or the headiness of power?

It comes out in this book as well (according to The Economist):
Ms Fiorina is at her best when recounting the travails of a woman in a male-dominated business culture...For another meeting, she padded her crotch with her husband's socks, the better to deliver the line “Our balls are as big as anyone's,” to hoots of approval.

Ms Fiorina is also good in her psychological descriptions of the constant betrayals that occur in corporate bureaucracies. The woman that emerges from these pages is cultured, sensitive and vulnerable, even as she acts tough. “To this day I underestimate people's capacity to abuse my trust and the insecurity that sometimes drives them.”

Her bigger theme is leadership, and this is where Ms Fiorina fails. Again and again, she interrupts a good narrative with vain and verbose harangues about corporate strategy. From one paragraph to the next, her language becomes wooden and clich├ęd as she descends into meaningless jargon.
I am not against her desire to be remembered as a management great - she was good. But the "vain and verbose" reminds me a lot of what I didn't like about her public side. I respect her for what she accomplished while she was CEO and the guts (not balls) she demonstrated when she so often went against popular opinion and carved out her strategy for HP.

"Her Story" should be an interesting read but I think I'll order the book from our public library rather then buying it.

Here's the link for the review. Unfortunately you need to be paid subscriber.

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