Carly Fiorina should have made history in 2016 as a strong female contender in the crowded GOP primary race, but because the field was so crowded, her voice often got silenced. She didn’t get the same media attention that Hillary Clinton did for being a female presidential candidate. In her 2015 book, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Challenge gets the chance to share her vision for America and her insight into being a leader in our increasingly polarized and technologically advancing society. Reading this at the end of 2017, with the 2016 election in the rear view mirror was enlightening. Carly Fiorina as a candidate was often unduly criticized for her femininity. In fact, she was often sent back to the kid’s table during debates, but her life story is one that we can all learn from as aspiring politicians, future CEOs, career women, and mothers.
Fiorina starts her book detailing how she and her husband recovered from the death of their daughter from a drug addiction, goes back to her life story as a secretary who rose to be the CEO of a huge technology company and then a female presidential candidate among a field of bombastic men. She details her California Senate run in which she challenged Barbara Boxer, all while battling breast cancer and dealing with radiation treatments. Through it all, she threads the ideas of strong leadership, overcoming challenges, and empowering Americans.
One of the most fascinating parts of her story is her explanation of her Unlocking Potential Project, which is a charitable organization that strengthens the problem-solving and leadership capacity of the community-based organizations tackling our nation’s most difficult problems so that they can realize their potential and maximize their impact. It’s something we didn’t get to hear much about during the 2016 election. It is a project that will make a long-term impact on the people involved. It starts as a two-day intensive hands-on experience. Then, that is followed by six months of support and experimentation that helps those involved build their ideas up, develop the tools and discipline needed to succeed, and to actually impact their community positively.
In the final chapters, Fiorina details what would have been her plan for America as president. She also includes a plethora of ideas that we can implement on local levels, including empowering small business owners, fighting for Main Street instead of just Wall Street, finding our similarities instead of exacerbating our differences, and using the right words to get our point across instead of divisive language that makes a good sound bite. If you want to be a leader one day, this is a great book for you to read. Even if Carly Fiorina is not our president and may never be, she grapples with some important ideas in these chapters that can help inform your own politics, your own leadership path, and your own interactions with others going forward.
Pick up Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina wherever books are sold.