Soundview Executive Book Summaries

What Business Book May Become Political Ammo?

As we’ve mentioned many times before in this blog, this is not a place for political discussion. However, political stories occasionally cross the border into the domain of business books. That’s our territory! Last night, with so many primaries taking place across the United States, one story in particular sparked my interest.

Carly Fiorina won the Republican nomination for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats. Fiorina will square off with three-term incumbent Barbara Boxer in November. As the respective political camps begin digging the trenches and stocking up on rhetorical ammunition, one wonders how Fiorina will fare when the subjects of leadership and economics are broached during debate. Fiorina’s supporters will obviously point to her success rising through the corporate ranks. Her detractors will likely focus on what happened after she reached the pinnacle of that success.

It’s a subject with which our subscribers are familiar. A few months ago, Soundview summarized Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin, Ph.D. Fiorina’s failed tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard is one of the examples Irwin uses to demonstrate poor leadership. In the summary, Irwin writes, “On Fiorina’s downfall, it is perhaps simplest to conclude that what led to her derailment were the shortcomings she saw abundantly in others but did not acknowledge in herself.”

While Boxer’s campaign could quote from Derailed, doing so would corrupt the intentions of the book’s author. One of Irwin’s primary purposes in writing the book was to use well-publicized downfalls to help executive’s recognize their own vulnerabilities. When Irwin appeared on Soundview’s Author Insight Series (a FREE MP3 podcast available exclusively for subscribers), he said, “What I tried to do was tell readers that, look, these are great individuals, highly competent, strategic, tough-minded and so on, but they made some really fundamental errors. Interestingly enough, these are also the character issues that can derail us.”

The fact that Fiorina overcame her lackluster dismissal from Hewlett-Packard and is now poised to make history supports Irwin’s thinking that character limitations aren’t permanent.

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