Time heals all wounds -- and apparently erases all memories. While politics makes strange bedfellows, the rumor mill is picking up steam now that former Hewlett-Packard
The current dissension in the computer maker's boardroom is certainly diversionary and would seemingly support Fiorina's story of being wrongfully kicked out of the executive suite. While personality conflicts with directors Tom Perkins and George Keyworth -- two key players in Hewlett-Packard's current "pretexting" crisis -- undoubtedly played a role in her ultimate demise, let's also not forget the horrendous condition Hewlett-Packard was in when Fiorina got the boot.
The $19 billion acquisition of Compaq in 2002, which she fought hard to achieve, resulted in a financial mess, and the much-touted synergies of the combination failed to materialize. The company reported $3 billion in merger-related costs as Compaq's personal and business systems sales slid 20%, though the HP side of the ledger rose. Whatever the difficulties Dell
She also appeared to lack "people skills." Fiorina had auspiciously predicted the company could churn out 15% revenue growth in 2001, but watched as it dropped 7% instead. When sales once again fell below expectations, she conducted a high-profile, public axing of three top sales managers. According to her new book, Tough Choices (which she has not surprisingly been heavily touting in the wake of the phone records scandal), her efforts to reshape a bureaucratic institution were hampered because she was a woman. I'm sure that will come as a shock to Patricia Dunn, the Hewlett-Packard chairwoman who orchestrated the pretexting investigation and was a primary mover in ousting Fiorina.
Is she damaged goods? A failed female businesswoman? Hardly. Her rise to CEO at one of the most storied computer companies shows she has skill. And her ability to push through the Compaq acquisition in the face of stiff opposition, even though it turned out badly, shows that she possesses dexterity and expertise in the art of persuasion -- useful skills indeed in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.
Still, she shouldn't make the common political mistake of believing her own press releases. Opting for the cynical position that she was ousted because she was a woman, while possibly useful in gaining some political support, would be a disaster for projecting the kind of strong independence that leaders, both business and political, seem to have in short supply.
Carly Fiorina was not the evil headmistress, presiding over Hewlett-Packard with an iron fist, that some have portrayed. Neither was she the defenseless executive who was thwarted at every turn simply because of her gender. More likely she was a combination of both, and more.
Whether or not Fiorina runs for governor or senator or some other office, we've undoubtedly not heard the last of her. And probably that's as it should be.
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