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An Inspiring and Effective Business Leader

Updated on March 9, 2017

Personality Traits Essential for Leaders

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The example of a business leader chosen for this topic discussion is Ginni Rometty who is the Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM (IBM, 2016). She is currently number eleven on Forbes list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (2016) where she “continues to drive efforts to transform IBM into a viable model for the digital age. In her four years as CEO, chairman and president, she has led spending programs for data-analysis software and skills, cloud computing and IBM's Watson artificial intelligence technology” (Forbes, 2016).

The decision to choose Ginni was due to an International Woman’s Day event that I attended a few years ago, it was extremely inspiring! Since then, I have been somewhat following IBM’s progression in order to read about her astonishing accomplishments, she is certainly bringing IBM to the next level. There are two quotes from Ginni Rometty that have really motivated me which are “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before” and “don’t let others define you. You define yourself” (BrainyQuote, 2016).

There is indication that she has indeed learnt from her predecessors Lou Gerstner (DiCarlo, 2002) and Sam Palmisano who have both successfully reinvented IBM in the unpredictable technology market. This is evident where “Rometty was at Palmisano’s side for much of his decade-long tenure, and became a serious candidate to succeed him about four years ago. And she was personally involved in setting the high bar that she must now clear. She and other senior leaders helped him develop the five-year plan – dubbed “2015 Roadmap” – that has IBM targeting more than $125 billion in revenue that year” (Hempel, 2012).

Due to the rapidly changing external environment of the computer services industry, the organization has adapted in unpredictable circumstances and has remained flexible. This is evident as “IBM proponents say she has placed the right bets. Those wagers have included selling off older, less profitable businesses to focus on key bigger opportunities like artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and security” (Darrow, 2016). This is evident in her leadership qualities as having a clear vision for the future of the organization and providing clear direction for her team in order to take risks and overcome new challenges.

In addition, the company is known for alignment and motivation where “Ginni explained that she carves out a few long-term strategic beliefs around which employees can jointly focus. She explained that this instills in employees that they’re coming to work for a higher purpose and a common overall goal” (Center for Work Life, 2014). This also shows her ability to clearly communicate and be specific with the company’s vision, strategic goals and expectations of the employees. She also exhibits the qualities of a role model and realizes the importance of actions speaking louder than words where “Ginni always remembers she doesn’t have to say her beliefs, she has to live them. One of the ways her actions have spoken louder than her words is when she declined her performance bonus from IBM” (Center for Work Life, 2014).

Therefore, I would rate her overall effectiveness to be at Level 5 Executive as my research has indicated that she “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will” (Collins, 2005). The manner in which I measured her effectiveness is through the previous lines of reasoning and the evaluation of transformational leadership. This leadership approach was introduced by Bernard M. Bass in an effort to measure leadership across four dimensions which are individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealized influence (Leadership-central, 2016).

Misconceptions of Leadership

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There is also the issue of media exaggerating the belief of leadership as the general perception of a leader is the person who is in charge of operations and employees. These individuals are perceived to have strong personalities, be powerful and extremely influential, somewhat as a hero or heroine. The misconception of a single individual being in command and in control is historical in nature as most organizations were structured as a hierarchy. This could be attributed to the outcome of press releases by a company’s public relations as a marketing tool in order to communicate on a personal level with consumers. “Now that online news sites such as Yahoo News and Google News contain such an abundance of press release content and RSS makes it easy to syndicate news, press releases can be effectively used as a direct to consumer communication tool” (Odden, 2016).

The major influence on organizational culture of most companies is the personality and beliefs of the founder and/or the chosen successor which is the CEO more often than not. This position comes with many responsibilities including the expectation of being the company’s spokesperson which links back to the influences of press releases. The role of a CEO “comes down to four fundamental tasks which are:

  1. Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside
  2. Answering, time and again, the two-part question, What business are we in and what business are we not in?
  3. Balancing sufficient yield in the present with necessary investment in the future
  4. Shaping the values and standards of the organization

The simplicity and clarity of these tasks is their strength, but their simplicity is also deceptive, because the work is more demanding than an observer might suspect. The challenge is to resist getting pulled into other work that is not the unique responsibility of the CEO” (Lafley, 2009). As a result, larger companies should assign significance to the role of CEO however must also formally acknowledge employees for their continuous efforts in supporting the organization’s goals and values.

In my opinion, the established culture at IBM of innovation has assisted in executing Ginni’s vision due to the 35 years at the company. For an individual to be engaged for that length of time and commit their career progression in one company illustrates the existence of a healthy psychological contract. This has also provided the support, trust and freedom from the organization for her to implement these strategies through her own leadership style.

Sandy Ennis. C.E.T., PBDM
Author / Business Consultant

References:

BrainyQuote. (2016). Ginni Rometty Quotes.

Center for Work Life. (2014, June 18). Leadership Qualities of Ginni Rometty.

Collins, J. (2005). Level 5 leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review. 83(7), 136-146.

Darrow, B. (2016). At the ripe age of 105, IBM seeks to reinvent itself – again. Fortune.

DiCarlo, L. (2002, November 11). How Lou Gerstner Got IBM To Dance. Forbes.

Forbes. (2016). The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women – #11 Ginni Rometty. Forbes.

Hempel, J. (2012, September 20). IBM's Ginni Rometty looks ahead. Fortune.

IBM. (2016). Ginni.

Lafley, A.G. (2009, May). What Only the CEO Can Do. HBR.

Leadership-central. (2016). Bass Transformational Leadership Theory.

Odden, L. (2016). Press Releases as Marketing Tools.

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