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-- Confucius

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Did HP make the right decision firing Mark Hurd?

The Board of Directors of HP just fired Mark Hurd, their CEO.

He accomplished a lot: Joining HP in 2005 as CEO, and was appointed chairman of the board the next year. He was a sharp strategist, focusing long-term growth opportunities: next-generation data center services; connectivity technologies; and digital imaging and printing, growing HP’s revenue from $80 billion to $118.4 billion and more than doubling its earnings per share.

However, he got caught in an escapade with a woman, and, on the surface, was fired for inflating his expense accounts to support this side show. However, he promised to pay the money back.

Should he have been fired?

Machiavelli, the 16th century realist who advised the nobility of the era said: “In the actions of men, especially leaders, the end justifies the means.” Do you agree?

Apparently Larry Elison does. He defended Hurd, with this lambasting retort: “The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP’s employees, shareholders, customers and partners. The HP board admits that it fully investigated the sexual harassment claims against Mark and found them to be utterly false.”

Did the HP Board make a mistake? Or had they lost trust in Hurd, despite his massive accomplishment? Or did they believe he was really dishonest and lacked integrity?

A very dear friend of mine (whose word I would trust completely) served as a direct report to Hurd earlier in his career. Three years ago I was told of an array of affairs and less than honorable behavior by Hurd when he headed up NCR. After his firing, my friend sent me the following sardonic email: “It's a tragedy, but not a surprise to those of us who knew him.” In other words, there were probably other missteps that preceded this one.

In his departing comments, Hurd said:

    "As the investigation progressed, I realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at HP and which have guided me throughout my career."

Sounds like Hurd couldn't even be trusted to tell the truth even when he was leaving HP.

In my last blog I talked about integrity – the union of honorable words with honorable actions. Integrity marvelously liberates us to live our relationships forward into the future, enabling us to experience the present moment cleanly and without fear that our past will undermine us, corrode our vision, and erode our energy.

The lack of integrity inevitably forces one to look back over one's shoulder, haunted by a past filled with historic baggage which will harbor tomorrow's illness, or threaten to destroy one's false illusions that were invented to disguise the sordid realities of a disingenuous life.

For those who live with integrity and honorable purpose, their word is their bond, thus engendering loyalty and respect in those who engage with them. Integrity enables us to touch the deepest yearnings of others around us, thus creating a new set of possibilities filled with hope and inspiration. Integrity is thus expansive, allowing us to become more than ourselves, to create with others, to empower others.

Think about this incident with Mark Hurd. How many times has our word not been reflected in our actions? When have our actions been less than honorable? And what are the consequences?

  • Robert Porter Lynch

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