One Question for Carly Fiorina

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The next US President must be a great communicator.

Distilling complex and controversial problems into mental models accessible to large numbers of people is not deception–it’s brilliance. The reason we hang onto sound bites isn’t because we’re stupid–it’s because we’re busy. We all don’t have time to earn masters-degree understanding of every issue facing society and government. Honest, accurate distillations of the complex ideas allow us to choose and act quickly.

Carly the Communicator

Based on everything I’ve read, Carly Fiorina is the champion communicator in the 2016 race. She went from secretary to CEO in large part because people understand what she’s talking about, and her explanations are consistent with reality.

Don’t discount that last part. It’s one thing to use communications to bamboozle people. It’s another to use communications ethically. And Carly Fiorina’s reputation is stellar in clearly communicating the truth.

Is Carly a Conservative?

Some conservatives doubt Ms. Fiorina’s conservatism. I don’t.

While she was on the wrong side of the government shutdown recently, reasonable people can disagree on tactics. Strategically, she wants the same outcome Ted Cruz and Mike Lee want. And there’s no way to know who was right.

Meanwhile, I see some people making ridiculous exaggerations about her statements on Islam. What she said about Islam is historically unassailable. It’s depressing that some political partisans feign ignorance of history to score cheap political points. [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]I don’t see the benefit to conservatism to be thought of as ignorant[/olympus_highlight].

So, unlike a few of my friends I do not doubt Carly Fiorina’s conservative bona fides. She served as Chairman of the American Conservative Union. (She calls herself “chairman,” refreshingly, not “chairperson,” “chairwoman,” or the truly confusing title “chair.”) Her vision for America is and has been consistently conservative.

But conservative isn’t enough. I have one big question for Carly Fiorina, and it involves leadership.

Would President Fiorina Eat First or Last?

I spent a large part of my adult life in technology. I have  few friends and colleagues who worked at Hewlett-Packard before and during Ms. Fiorina’s term as CEO.

These HPers tell me that many of Fiorina’s decisions as CEO turned out to be good in the long run. Some of those decisions, like buying Compaq, were highly unpopular then, but turned out to be the right moves.

Other Fiorina moves are more disturbing. Carly Fiorina changed HP’s culture, and I don’t like the way she changed it. In short, HP’s greatest innovation was never technological–it was cultural. From Entrepreneur Magazine in 2008:

But what really sets HP apart isn’t technology, but the visionary management style created by HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard. Their policy of [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”] showing sensitivity to their employees’ needs and giving their workers the chance to be creative in solving technical and business problems has made HP one of the most successful and admired companies in the history of American industry[/olympus_highlight].

I’ve heard that Fiorina undid that great culture. While Hewlett and Packard ate lunch in common cafeterias with their employees, Fiorina isolated executives in veritable palaces. The ultimate engineering company–of engineers, by engineers–became a two-tier society with MBAs and lawyers as the elites and engineers as the plebes.

Fiorina, I am told, turned a great culture into a hierarchical hell. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard ate last; Fiorina’s executives ate first.

Leaders Eat Last

Why is this so important to me? Why do I keep harping on leadership and service?

Because [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]a free society depends on virtuous citizens and servant-leaders[olympus_highlight]. I want to puke when I read about the Obamas and their 200-person entourages, their privilege, their demand for royal treatment,  their disruption of people’s lives so they can play golf in Hawaii. And what about Hillary Clinton’s egomaniacal demands when she speaks for $250,000 an hour? (I do not care about the fee. Speakers should be paid. But Hillary’s list of accommodations is just sad.)

We recoil at these selfish excesses because they say to us, “I am better than you, commoner.”

This is America. We are all commoners. As Simon Sinek points out in his TED talk:

This is the reason so many people have such a visceral hatred, anger, at some of these banking CEOs with their disproportionate salaries and bonus structures. It’s not the numbers. It’s that they have violated the very definition of leadership. They have violated this deep-seated social contract. [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]We know that they allowed their people to be sacrificed so they could protect their own interests, or worse, they sacrificed their people to protect their own interests. This is what so offends us, not the numbers[/olympus_highlight]. Would anybody be offended if we gave a $150 million bonus to Gandhi? How about a $250 million bonus to Mother Teresa? Do we have an issue with that? None at all. None at all. Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

I don’t want another elitist President. We’ve had too many. It’s one reason I worry about Donald Trump.

Maybe Carly Has Changed

On the flip side, Carly Fiorina has so many positives I must stay open. I am giving her the benefit of the doubt, but I want to know she’s change her view of executive elitis

So I have only[olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]one question for Carly Fiorina: how do you justify the elitist culture so many HPs employees say you installed as CEO?[/olympus_highlight]

If she answers that question well, she might become one of my favorites in the race.


What Is The Difference Between Leadership and Service?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Marine Corps officers eat last.

That simple insight inspired the title of Simon Sinek’s latest book, “Leaders Eat Last.” If I could influence high school or college curricula, no one would graduate without successfully completing a semester course on that principle.

Below is another remarkable video of Simon Sinek discussing how circumstances can override our desire to lead and serve and how leadership and service can fix almost any problem. But first, I’d like you think a bit more about these two critical needs: leadership and service.

America is woefully short of leaders. Sure, we have plenty of authorities. We have plenty of order-givers. We’re chock-full of jerks who belligerently spit out directives of what others should do. But we’re at an all-time low of people who actually lead.

At the same time, we have retained an innate appreciation for service. My unscientific survey of readers of this blog found that 82 percent believe a strong service ethic would make America stronger. That’s encouraging.

What I think we fail to recognize is that [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]leadership *is* service[/olympus_highlight]. That’s why Marine Corps officers eat last. Officers serve those who serve.

So many problems in America result from our leadership deficit. Do you think Barack Obama eats last? Do you think Hillary Clinton does? Or Donald Trump? I’m not telling you what to think, I’m asking you to really think about that one aspect of character and purpose. This week’s Hennessy’s View poll asks precisely that: which candidates would eat last?

The poll ends on Saturday, but I’ve already seen a remarkable trend. The software tracks how many people start the poll but don’t finish it. On previous polls, well over 95 percent who started the poll completed it. On this poll, only half complete it. And this survey contains only 4 questions, one of the shortest polls I’ve ever run.

Ask yourself why that is. Why is the abandonment rate of this simple poll so high?

Leadership is service. Service is leadership. Authority and leadership are orthogonal–one can be a leaders without authority and an authority without leadership. Most American business “leaders” lack any resemblance of leadership. They wield power. Most political “leaders” are mere authorities seeking only power. True leaders are rare.

But it wasn’t always this way.

I had a boss who was a full generation older than me. We were talking recently about when business stopped being fun and profitable for everyone. His answer, “when the last of the World War II guys retired. That’s when everything changed.

So many of those “WWII guys” knew leadership and service. They lived it. Sure, there were nasty bastards among that generation. But the World War II generation yielded a ridiculous number of true leaders. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, founders of HP, died in the simple homes they lived in when the company was founded. They never moved up. They ate lunch in a cafeteria with everyone else. Owning a great company never got in the way of their leadership.

America has a leadership deficit. To me, that’s the most important issue in 2016. [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]Without leadership, none of the other problems will be solved[/olympus_highlight]. None of them.

The good news: it’s easy to spot a leader. A leader is the person who eats last.


Featured Image: Dave Packard (left) and Bill Hewlett.

What Is Leadership?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Many of you loved Simon Sinek’s Start With Why TEDx talk.

I love the way Simon Sinek thinks. It’s no surprise, then, that his TED Talk on leadership could be the greatest definition of leadership I’ve ever heard.

Please watch and share. I have some thoughts and a poll following.

Contrasts give greater clarity. Sinek’s contrast between military leadership and business leadership says a lot about the state of American business.

[olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]You know, in the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. We have it backwards[/olympus_highlight]

Ouch. It hurts because it’s true.

Do you want to work for a company whose leaders eat first? Or a company whose leaders eat last?

Do you want to work for a company that gives awards to people who sacrifice themselves for others? Or a company that gives awards to people who sacrifice others?

If we want a better company and a bette country, we need to start choosing better leaders. Leadership is not about speaking your mind. Leadership isn’t what you say at all. Leadership is what you do.

Choose Your Leaders Carefully

In America, we choose our leaders. We choose the companies we work for. We choose the people who hold high office.

Before we ask about a candidate’s ideological purity, doesn’t it make sense to ask of every candidate: would this man or woman eat last?

If you could not imagine a candidate running into a fire fight to rescue his or her subordinates, why in God’s name would you ever put them into high office? Why would you choose a leader who would sacrifice you or your children for his or her gain or comfort?

This Week’s Poll

Which candidate for President and Missouri Governor do you believe is most likely to eat last?

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How to Sell Conservative Principles

Reading Time: 1

If you’re still asking “why bother?” read this.

If you still believe conservatism is an economic theory, read this.

If you’re ready to [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]create a transformational social movement that improves lives[/olympus_highlight] by providing every America with the dignity of meaningful work and the freedom to pursue happiness, watch this video. It’s Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk about his then-new book, Start With Why, and it’s the most powerful idea I’ve discovered in recent years.

This is exactly what Arthur C. Brooks talks about in The Conservative Heart. [olympus_highlight color=”yellow”]People don’t buy what you make; they buy why you make it[/olympus_highlight].

If this video seemed familiar, I’ve blogged about it before.

My readers love your comments. Please leave your thoughts here [olympus_icon type=”fa-hand-o-down”]

Thank you.

Live Your Why

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As we approach the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, it seems we should both honor Rev. King and learn from that speech. 

I can think of no better way to accomplish both goals than to liberally borrow from Simon Sinek’s fantastic blog post about that speech and the importance of living your “why.”

On August 28, 1963, 250,000 people from across the country descended on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The organizers didn’t send out 250,000 invitations and there was no Web site to check the date. How did they get a quarter of a million people to show up on the right day at the right time?

Dr. King was not the only person alive during that time who knew what had to change to bring about civil rights in America. He had many ideas about what needed to happen, but so did others. And not all of his ideas were good. He was not a perfect man; he had his complexities.

When I first watched Simon’s TED Talk about the importance of why, I knew immediately I had found the man who understands the Tea Party.  We are different from so many conservative “movements” because of our why.  Though not everyone has articulated that why, we all share it.

But Dr. King was absolute in his conviction. He knew change had to happen in America. His clarity of WHY, his sense of purpose, gave him the strength and energy to continue his fight against often seemingly insurmountable odds. There were others like him who shared his vision of America, but many of them gave up after too many defeats. Defeat is painful. And the ability to continue head-on, day after day, takes something more than knowing what legislation needs to be passed. For civil rights to truly take hold in the country, its organizers had to rally everyone. They may have been able to pass legislation, but they needed more than that, they needed to change a country. Only if they could rally a nation to join the cause, not because they had to, but because they wanted to, could any significant change endure. But no one person can effect lasting change alone. It would take others who believed what King believed.

When Glenn Beck announced that he would be at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate that speech, I was skeptical like many others.  But then I heard Glenn explain his why and I was moved. 

Back to Simon Sinek and Martin Luther King:

People heard his beliefs and his words touched them deep inside. Those who believed what he believed took that cause and made it their own. And they told people what they believed. And those people told others what they believed. Some organized to get that belief out more efficiently.

And in the summer of 1963, a quarter of a million people showed up to hear Dr. King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But how many people showed up for Dr. King?


They showed up for themselves. It was what they believed. It was what they saw as an opportunity to help America become a better version of itself. It was they who wanted to live in a country that reflected their own values and beliefs that inspired them to get on a bus to travel for eight hours to stand in the Washington sun in the middle of August to hear Dr. King speak. Being in Washington was simply one of the things they did to prove what they believed. Showing up that day was one of the WHATs to their own WHY. This was a cause and it was their cause.

Ultimately, that’s why people come to Tea Parties.  They don’t come for the hosts or for Martin Luther King or for Thomas Jefferson.  They come because they honor themselves.  They come because they believe they are worthy of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They come because they believe their children should be free of our debt and of Washington’s onerous regulations.

As you look over your calendars, please set aside two important dates:

August 28: Honor America and yourself by watching Glenn Beck or attending his program on the Mall in Washington, DC.

On September 12: Honor America and yourself by attending a Tea Party in St. Louis or Washington or Sacramento

The why is so important, far more important than the tactics.  I know I can get all caught up in minutiae. I worry about dates and admin and paperwork and marketing and locations and images.  That’s fine—someone must.  But when those details drive a wedge between us and our why, they do us no good.  If we don’t project our why in everything we do, then we quickly become cranks who worry more about being busy than about doing good. 

Tea Parties and events like Restoring Honor remind us of why.  It’s important to reflect.