5. She lacked focus.
Her plans were too diffuse to be effective. Here are the many things Fiorina tried to do at once:
-Compete with Dell in the low-cost PC market
-Compete with IBM in the consulting and services sectors
-Compete with Dell and Gateway by producing home entertainment products
-Become familiar and legitimate in the public eye by talking to the press nonstop
-Get the company a celebrity image with the likes of Gwen Stefani
-Undertake the biggest merger in IT history (at the time)
Her energy was so scattered that none of these ideas came to fruition.
4. She didn’t listen.
Fiorina spent most of her tenure at HP opposing shareholders, the board, and public opinion. Mother Jones provides an example:
In March 2004, after HP shareholders voted 1.21 billion to 925 million to expense stock options, she opposed the move, essentially opting to stick with accounting practices (that were used by other corporations) that did not reveal a company’s true value.
3. She was a bad manager.
Fiorina delegated all important operational tasks to her core team of chosen executives, rather than the directors traditionally in charge of certain divisions. It smacked of cronyism, but Fiorina did nothing to assuage such perceptions. Moreover, she radically restructured HP’s corporate innards to create a chain of command from the top down. In a company accustomed to bottom-up collaboration and teamwork, this move only served to distance her from the organization she was supposed to lead and manage.
2. She was a bad leader.
In a 2007 Stanford speech, Fiorina described a leader as someone who “changes the order of things.” If this explanation sounds a little blithe, it’s because she’s defending her own qualities. She lacked in the key areas that define a good leader. Good leaders motivate and empower people. Their followers trust them. They follow through on their word.
Fiorina lacked all of those traits. Her word was her vision, but all the public could see was short-term collapse. She failed to build trust. Her restructuring alienated employees; her post-merger layoffs added another blow to company motivation; and her celebrity marketing campaigns (she appeared on stage with Gwen Stefani, who was supposed to design products for HP) no doubt further peeved off people concerned with pithy items like job security and financial loss.
1. She won’t admit to her own failures.
She continues to give popular conceptions of her reign the finger by invoking language of herself as a victim. Here’s another excerpt from her website:
After striving my entire career to be judged by my results and my decisions, the coverage of my gender, my appearance and perceptions of my personality would outweigh anything else.
(Fiorina) was an outsider in every way imaginable, the first CEO not promoted from within; a woman leader in a male-dominated culture; a marketing expert in a company that worshipped engineers; an easterner surrounded by Silicon Valley lifers.
Respectable, to be sure. But the female-outsider-marketing expert facets don’t outweigh her failures as a chief officer. After all, nobody tore eBay’s Meg Whitman to pieces. Fiorina would help her own reputation to acknowledge her shortcomings, whether she feels they’re legitimate or not.
I think Fiorina takes the public stance she does in order to defend herself from media lynch mobs. Nonetheless, evidence warrants her mixed reputation. If she ever wants to be remembered as more than notorious, she needs to practice the art of acquiescence.