Following are three memorable exchanges from an interview with Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. (From the MIT website).
The first question was: “You’ve just come through a most extraordinary experience. What would you like to share about that?”
This question referred to her sudden departure from HP in February 2005.
Ms Fiorina said: “Firstly, HP was an organisation that I poured six years of my life into. I loved its mission and the people of the company, I wished all the best for the people there. However, certain members of the board had certain ideas about organisational moves and personnel moves that they thought should be made.
Now, on the one hand, I don’t think managing a company is a board job. I think it is a CEO and management team job. And I think that for a CEO and management team to be held accountable for performance, they need to be able to make the moves that they think are right to deliver that performance. On the other hand, I will say at the pragmatic level that I take good ideas from anyone. And so, had I believed that those suggested moves would work, I would have made them. But I didn’t think they would work. So we had a fundamental disagreement about that.
And I think that when confidential board conversations become public _ and what should stay inside the boardroom goes outside the boardroom _ then the very bond of trust is broken. That’s important for the effective execution of the firm’s mission.
Having said all that, I also know that when the worst thing you can imagine happens _ you know, your ouster comes suddenly, without warning, and it’s played out in every newspaper and on every television in the world _ the sun still comes up the next day. Life goes on.”
The next question was: “Do you think passion is essential for the business and people to succeed? And how do you generate passion among people in the organisation.”
“Yes, I do,” Ms Fiorina replied.
“First of all, I think passion is very important. And I think passion comes in many forms. Passion is not exhibited in everyone in the same way. Passion doesn’t necessary mean you run into the room every day tingling with excitement all the time. Some people are quietly passionate.I think passion is about commitment. And passion is a commitment not just of the mind but of the heart. And I think any great endeavour, whether it’s research or whether it’s the development of a product, or whether it’s the leadership of the organisation, any great endeavour _ and by saying ‘great’ I mean difficult, important _ any great endeavour requires a person to commit not just their mind but also their heart. Because it’s going to take all of what they have. That’s what passion is about to me. So I think that if you have people who aren’t committed in that way, the result will be less than it could be.
The leader’s job is to challenge the mind but also to capture the heart.”