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Carly Fiorina talks leadership, innovation in Lansing

Carly Fiorina

LANSING — California businesswoman Carly Fiorina came to Michigan on Tuesday to talk about leadership with a crowd of more than 400 people at a Michigan Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

It wasn’t intended to be a campaign speech to tout her 2016 presidential aspirations, but the subject couldn’t be ignored, especially since she announced her candidacy just last week.

“On the Republican side, this is going to be a long process of elimination before the selection is made,” she said. “My goal is to be still standing when the process of elimination is over.”

Fiorina is just the latest in a string of potential Republican candidates who have come to the state to test the waters for the 2016 elections. Last week, Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky were all in the state on the same day to speak to GOP crowds.

But Fiorina’s task before the chamber was to talk more about her business experience than her campaign. She talked about being fired from her job as CEO of Hewlett Packard in 2005.

“I was fired in a boardroom brawl,” she said. “It was about what happens when you challenge the status quo. When you do that, you make enemies.”

But challenging the status quo is what makes an effective leader, she said.

“I thought a leader was someone with a big office, perks, a parking space. But I learned there were people with big titles and perks who were not leading,” Fiorina said. “Leaders challenge the status quo. Leaders change the order of things for the better. Leaders make enemies. The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others.”

The nation is suffering from a lack of leadership, she said, leading to a diminishing sense of the optimism that has marked the citizens of the country.

“Instead, I sense a deep disquiet. It’s not political or partisan,” she said. “It comes from a fear that we are losing something, missing something, that sense of limitless possibility.”

When asked by emcee Frank Beckmann, a WJR-radio talk show host, what she thought of the possibility of a “femme versus femme” presidential race. Fiorina replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never been a man. Maybe if we have two female nominees, then gender wouldn’t be the issue. The issue would be track record.”

The speech, which was not overtly partisan, was well received by the crowd that was filled with both businessmen and women and political leaders.

“She didn’t have a Republican message or Democratic message, she had an American message that resonated with everyone,” said Jim Thienel, former chairman for the Oakland County Republican Party.

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