Julie Edwards, President of Real Leaders, put some questions to Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina at the recent National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) conference in San Antonio, Texas.

What is a real leader?

A leader challenges the status quo and never accepts the way things are. You shouldn’t resist change just because things have always been that way. A leader unlocks potential in others. It has nothing to do with your title or position, anyone can lead from anywhere.

How do we get more women into top leadership roles?

We have to focus on merit and results. When we do that women will rise. I have always relentlessly built meritocracies, and at the end of the process, half my staff are usually women. In most organizations, they think they’re building on merit, but they aren’t. You’ll hear excuses such as, “Oh, I don’t know her. She’s never done this before.” Sometimes it’s about people being more comfortable with people like themselves. This is more about being a victim of the status quo than asking yourself who will produce the results, who will make the best contribution or who has the merit.

How do we fight the scourge of drugs among our youth?

Most people don’t realize what an epidemic this is. I didn’t realize either until I started hearing from so many parents that it was happening to them too. It’s a silent epidemic. We need to start talking about it more so that the stigma disappears. We need to start investing more in treatment and prevention and our criminal justice system needs to be reformed. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with two thirds of inmates imprisoned for non-violent offences, mostly drug related. This approach is not working. 

We lie to kids too. When we tell them that smoking a joint is like drinking a beer, it’s not. Lets make sure they understand the risks involved. 

Julie Edwards with Carly Fiorina.

Julie Edwards with Carly Fiorina.