Tough Choices : A Memoirby Carly Fiorina
Behind the headlines-one of the most talked-about business leaders in the world tells her own storyBy accepting the CEO job at Hewlett-Packard, an iconic company that had lost its way, Carly Fiorina confirmed her status as the most powerful businesswoman in America. But she also made herself a target for everyone who disliked her bold leadership style and resented her rapid rise. For six years, as she led HP through drastic changes and a controversial merger, Fiorina was the subject of endless analysis, debate, and speculation. She appeared on the cover of every major magazine and her every word was scrutinized. Yet in all that time, the public never got to know the person behind the persona. Tough Choices will finally reveal the real Carly Fiorina, who writes with brutal honesty about her triumphs and failures, her deepest fears and most painful confrontations-including her sudden and very public firing by HP's board of directors. It's an amazing life story: Fiorina was a liberal arts major and law school dropout who didn't even consider a business career until her mid-twenties. But soon she was blazing through big jobs at AT&T and then Lucent Technologies, with a growing reputation as a creative, hardworking, visionary leader. Her career path would have been remarkable for anyone, but in an industry dominated by men, it was unprecedented. Tough Choices shows what it's really like to lead a major corporation in a time of great change while trying to stay true to your values. It's one woman's inspiring story, along with her unique perspective on leadership, technology, globalization, sexism, and many other issues.
- Gardners Books
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Read an Excerpt
IN THE END, the Board did not have the courage to face me. They did not thank me and they did not say good-bye. They did not explain their decision or their reasoning. They did not seek my opinion or my involvement in any aspect of the transition. Having asked me to come to Chicago for a meeting, they left me waiting in my hotel room for more than three hours. As I waited, I knew whatever came next would be a turning point. After I finally received the call to rejoin the meeting, I thought about each Board member as I rode the elevator down past those twenty four floors. I didn't know what to expect, but I assumed I would be facing them. I wasn't prepared for the empty conference room I entered. Only the two designated messengers and a lawyer remained in the room. The chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee said, "Carly, the Board has decided to make a change at the top. I'm very sorry." I knew he had opposed my ouster. And then the new chairman said they wanted my help in "positioning" the news. She said they thought I should describe this as my decision: I should say I thought it was "time to move on." I asked when they wanted to make the announcement. "Right away."
The meeting lasted less than three minutes. I asked for a few hours to think and I left the room.
I believe the truth is always the best answer, whatever the consequences. Less than two hours later I sent a message to the new chairman saying we should tell the truth: the Board had fired me. When the announcement was made, I simply said, "While I regret that the Board and I had differences over the execution of the strategy, I respect their decision. HP is a great company and I wish the people of HP all the best."
I had always known I might lose my job. I was playing a high-stakes game with powerful people and powerful interests, but I had not expected the end to come in this way. I knew we were on the verge of reaping tremendous benefits from all our hard work, and I thought the Board knew this too. I wanted so much to be able to gather my team one last time and tell them how proud I was of all we had accomplished together. My heart ached that I was not give an opportunity to say good-bye to the people of HP, whom I had grown to love.
I knew the announcement would be big news. I was a woman, and a bold one at that, and things had always been different for me. All the criticisms that had ever been leveled against me would be recycled and thrown back in my face with new delight: "She's too flashy." "She's just marketing fluff." "She's too controlling." "She's a publicity hound." "The merger was her idea and it was the wrong thing to do." "She's imperious, vindictive and employees didn't like her." The coverage would go on and on, and the critiques would not be balanced against the facts or my contributions or the positive changes that had been made. It would be ugly and it would be personal.
I knew all this as I steeled myself for the public announcement on February 9, 2005. The reality of the coverage was even worse than I had imagined. It hurt me, but it hurt my family and friends more. I felt lonely, but no lonelier than I'd felt for the past six years. I was deeply sad that fellow Board members I had known and trusted would not pay me the simple respect of looking me in the eye and telling me the truth. I felt betrayed when I considered that some Board members, having spoken outside the boardroom, had broken their duty of confidence to one another and to me.
I felt all these things, but after a lifetime of fears I was not afraid. I had done what I thought was right. I had given everything I had to something I believed in. I had made mistakes, but I had made a difference. I was at peace with my choices and their consequences. My soul was still my own.
Meet the Author
Carly Fiorina was president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005 and chairman from 2000 to 2005. Before joining HP, she spent nearly twenty years at AT&T and Lucent Technologies, where she held a number of senior leadership positions. She has a BA in medieval history and philosophy from Stanford University, an MBA.from the University of Maryland, and an MS from MIT's Sloan School of Management. Fiorina currently serves on several boards of directors, including those of revolutionary Healthcare Group and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.
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