I recently learned about Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast (on the Java Posse podcast: thanks
Tor Joe!), and downloaded a few episodes to my iPod. I swear, dog walking has NOT been the same since I got the iPod. Sometimes I extend my walk because I'm enjoying the talk so much that I don't want to head home (or back to work). Today was one of those days, in spite of the fact that it was raining.
Anyhow, today's speaker was Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, and Stanford alum. She studied medieval history and philosophy at Stanford as an undergrad. She talked a bit about her windy, twisty career path, and it was quite interesting. I have to say, I would have never guessed that she was a secretary as her first job out of college, before her MBA!
The entire talk is great. The first 40 minutes or so consist of her speaking. After that, there's a Q&A session with the audience (another 30 minutes). If it takes too much out of your day to listen to the entire episode, definitely listen to the first 40 minutes.
The highlight for me was in her describing leadership. She talked a lot about it being a personal choice. Anyone can choose to be a leader, and make a difference. It's not always those who seem to be in the best position financially, or status-wise, that make leaders. Often times, those people don't choose that route, whereas someone that you would expect to be unempowered to make a difference stands up and chooses to do so. She compared some Harvard grads in her age group who seemed unable to determine what it would take to make a difference to a soldier, recently back from Iraq, who had lost both legs and his eyesight. It was the 20 year old soldier who was incented to make a difference, in the lives of other people who had been injured and not the Harvard grads who, seemingly, had "everything" going for them.
She described some key aspects of a leader:
It takes all of these things. It struck me that the times in my life when I have been most disappointed in situations where I met someone who I thought was a leader, were when the person violated one of the these principles, specifically the latter two. From a collaboration standpoint, either they don't know how to "ask questions and LISTEN to the answers" (as Carly put it) or they don't seek out people with differing viewpoints and learn from people with varying experience. Or, they fail in the character category by not treating people well.
If you have a chance to listen to this podcast, definitely do so (and feel free to post comments; I would love to know what others thought). I'm looking forward to the other talks in the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series and I hope that I will be as thrilled with them as I was with this. The dog will enjoy them too, I'm sure. Anything that prolongs his walk makes him happy.
Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast
(also available on iTunes)