If Fiorina were a man, do you think he would have been fired as she was? For


If Fiorina were a man, do you think he would have been fired as she was?

For most leaders, their ability and emphasis would favor one or the other. In Fiorina’s case, her strengths were being a charismatic leader, one who could communicate sweeping strategies, and bring a sense of urgency and vision throughout the organization. Undoubtedly her “silver tongue” and persuasive skills influenced the committee more than any other candidate. As we will see later in the case, she was fired by the board of directors five-and-a-half years later, and an operations man replaced her, and the stock price doubled. This raises several meaty questions: Can a person be too charismatic? Is an organization better served by operational leadership, shunning the spotlight and lofty visions?
What does a charismatic leader bring to an organization? Change. And this can be highly desirable for organizations mired in complacency, bureaucracy, and conservatism. But it can also bring resentment, jealousy, and even fear of positions being eliminated or reduced. A charismatic leader is seldom inclined to give priority to details, and unless this mindset is delegated to competent subordinates, operations may suffer.
The major merger with Compaq Computer that Fiorina instigated and pushed through, despite criticism and serious opposition from Walter Hewlett, a member of the board and of the founding family with 24 percent of the vote, would probably not have been consummated without her charisma and steadfastness. But a charismatic leader can run roughshod over subordinates, and in Carly’s case can be disdainful of the board’s efforts to change her ways. As we shall see in the Update, the Compaq merger turned out to be a triumph, but after her departure.

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