IBM and Thoughts on the Future of Leadership

Rob Enderle
Slide Show

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This week, I'm at IBM's millennial event in New York and the first session is on leadership. Given the lack of leadership we are complaining about in the U.S. government and in many of the more volatile companies and segments, it is an important topic. What is also appropriate is that Sam Palmisano is the opening speaker. IBM is at its peak largely because Sam took the company back to its roots while transforming it to address a changed world. The world, and there are few companies or politicians that seem to get this, let alone have adopted it, is more interconnected than it has ever been - not just at a company level, but between its employees, citizens, leaders and, particularly, its children.


This has created an unprecedented amount of information and resources that could be effectively used to make the world a better place, but often is not because the critical information and conversations often can't be identified and utilized in a timely fashion. IBM's deep cause, its corporate goal, is to address this problem with its technology, and its Smarter Planet Agenda is the most visible part of this effort.


Three Lessons of the Successful Leader


Lesson One: Take advantage of the powerful new capabilities we have available in an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent world. The information is out there and the tools exist to capture and analyze it. This means decisions no longer need be made in the dark. Strong leaders move to get the information they need and then make informed decisions from it. I couldn't help but think of Microsoft during this part of the talk because that company has appeared to do everything it could to prevent its executive staff from getting key intelligence and, as a result, the last decade was peppered with failure after failure even though it is led by some relatively bright people.


Lesson Two: See your organization not only as a fierce competitor, but also as a broad collaborator. The most successfully run firms today are those that focus less on competition and more on collaboration in order to accomplish broad projects. It is less about the single super company and more about the consortiums that are formed to accomplish tasks beyond any one company and talks that are big enough to make the world a better place and result in success for all. It is the idea of the tide that raises all boats as opposed to the competitive focus that forces losers to outnumber winners.


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