What was Fiorina’s leadership style? Was she the right choice for HP?
No matter which leadership theory it is to apply, Fiorina’s leadership style in HP was relatively clear-cut: a task-oriented, autocratic, transactional leadership style, whichever way it is named. This leadership style can be reflected from her first moves after joining HP. Firstly, she required the marketing department to launch a re-branding advertising campaign in 6 weeks, which, considered the size and the circumstances, was quite a high requirement. Secondly, she set a growth target of 20% to be met in 2002 and started to initiate rapid organizational changes. The changes included consolidating power, as well as attempting to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of different departments. These, according to the behavioral theory, can be classified as autocratic style. The revamping of HP’s culture consistently showed the same leadership style. Abandoning the highly employee-oriented ‘HP Way’, Fiorina initiated the reward and punishing mechanism, in which she cancelled the bonus which the employees were entitled under the original mechanism for 39 years in 2001 and dismissed the a total of 17,900 under-performers by the end of 2002. In addition to that, she seldom made real connections between herself and the employees, and was resented by not only front-line but also the some of the senior managers. Despite the poor connection between she and the employees, Fiorina put much stress on task completion. Her determination in getting a deal as she wanted can be demonstrated in the much debated merger between HP and Compaq. This time, Fiorina conflicted with the prominent family-led shareholder, William Hewlett. In the end she was able to close the deal at the expense of losing both founding families, Hewlett and Packard, from the company. Despite the aggressive leadership style, it is still debatable on whether Fiorina was the right choice for HP. Given the severe internal and external environment HP was facing, such as decreasing profitability and market share, ineffectiveness in management and bureaucracy, lack of innovation and new vision etc., Fiorina, who was then renowned for her charismatic leadership style, innovative and aggressive management style, seemed to be the right choice for HP. In fact, according to Fiedler’s Contingency Theory, facing poorly structured tasks and leader-member relationships, a more autocratic style is desired. However, as time went by, it may be seen that Fiorina was not HP’s best choice as she was not able to fit in to the company culture, which was long-cherished by the employees. The summary of difference in management style between the ‘Fiorina’s way’ and the’HP way’ is as [Table 1]:
|Fiorina |Hewlett Packard | |High-profiled, only meet with employees in pep rallies |Low-profiled, management by ‘walking around’ | |Centralized |Delegative | |Task-oriented |Employee-oriented | |Adopt reward and punishment system strictly based on performance |Emphasis on job security, grant a year of grace period for | | |under-performers | |Hierarchal organization structure |Egalitarian organization structure | |Longer working hour |More flexible working hour |
Although sometimes different leadership style stimulate helpful...
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