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Leadership is a Choice

I had the occasion recently to hear Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, speak and was personally inspired. It's interesting that she seems to be somewhat like Hillary Clinton in that people either like her or dislike her, there doesn't seem to be a middle ground around her.
She graduated from college with a degree in medieval history and philosophy and was basically unemployable. Then went to law school and hated it, so she dropped out and got a job as a secretary and filing clerk just to pay the bills. It was on this job when her boss saw her potential and she was 'launched' into the business world.It's interesting that she 'stumbled' into the business world, in which she so obviously successful, based on what another saw in her. Her point is that leaders are made, not born and the most important a leader can do is see potential in others.

When she took the job at HP, she knew her role was to create opportunities for the company to have a successful change. We all know its natural for people to want to preserve the status quo, but the development of people and the seizing of opportunity always requires change.Change can be and usually is difficult.

Two things that have changed our world is globalization and technology. More than 3 billion people have joined the business game. The world as a whole is doing well economically. China depends on us to grow their economy. The country and the business with the best talent will win. Those who see and develop that talent will win.Brain power is our most asset. Political power is based on economic power. China's goal is to become the leading economic power.

We must step up and manage the talent and the brain power of our people. We must develop more leaders. Management is the production of acceptable results within known resources and constraints. Leadership is changing the order of things.If we look at this distinction like we would a computer, the hardware is the structure, processes and organizational charts and the software is the culture, behavior and talents.

Communication is a skill and one that is critical, we must train, develop and promote based on collaborative skills. There are too many sins of omission - not saying what needs to be said. There is too little respect. We need respect; but what we don't need is just polite consensus. We need full exploration and conversation; to ask the tough questions and to say what needs to be said and yet said respectfully.In a nutshell, we need candid conversations.

I just finished her book, Tough Choices, in which she states the three 'must' qualities for leadership are character, competence and collaboration. Not everyone has character, and those who do, are not always competent, and when you do find the two combined, fewer yet have the strength of collaboration which is necessary to work with a team, a board, or an organization. When you get to this level of business almost all involved have very strong personalities (egos) and a need to be right.

Business is all about people, people drive everything in a business. The talent of people can be inspired, nurtured and developed. One of the things that impressed me about her was how thoroughly she prepared, how much she cared about the people at all levels and how hard she worked. I thought, woman, where did you get this much energy?

Someone in the audience asked Carly if it was true she might get into politics and she said when asked about it so often, one naturally had to consider it. She currently serves on a task force for the CIA. When asked about the economy, she replied that the US has the number one infrastructure and culture for entrepreneurs. What we're not doing is investing in our brain power; our education and our innovation which drives opportunities.We have to find common ground on immigration,she's not concerned that others are coming here for their education, her concern is that they leave; they take that education elsewhere.

We need people with different points of view, different talents, diversity is not about winning, its about understanding. If we think alike, if we all agree....it's nothing but 'group think'. People don't know what they don't know. They need to be challenged by someone who thinks differently. This is diversity.

Leadership requires realism and optimism in equal parts. Leaders must seek and seize opportunities. They must manage talent and brain power. What are you doing to grow yourself and those around you in these areas? Leaders are made, not born and leadership is a choice. How well are you doing in the 3 leadership 'musts''? Could a coach help?


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