Tag Archives: Talent

THINK Forum on Leadership – My Reflections on Key Themes

Last week I had the privilege of joining with 500 other top leaders from around the globe to spend two full days thinking about the future of leadership.  The THINK Forum event was run by IBM as part of our Centennial Year and brought together leaders from government, business, academia and science  to discuss and debate how leadership will be different in the years ahead.  As you can imagine, it was a fascinating discussion!  Imagine hearing about the future of leadership from everyone ranging from Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMC, the King of Jordan King Abdullah Al Hussein, the President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III, Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Joichi Ito the Director of the MIT Media Lab, to Rijan Mittal Vice Chairmam of Bharti Enterprises.

In reflecting on all of their comments and the discussion themes that emerged – I think there were three key themes that I found particularly interesting  that came out across all the speaker and panelists.

1) Leadership requires instilling a deep & distinct set of purpose and clarity of objectives.  This is more important than ever with next generation of leaders and employee who want to align their efforts to a higher purpose.  Those leaders who can align communicate with extreme clarity about the objectives, and link those objectives to a greater, meaningful mission for the company and it’s stakeholders will be best able to drive higher levels of motivation and performance.

2)  Optimism is the greatest act of rebellion.   More so that ever today given the gloom and doom that has is prevailing across countries, markets and institutions, those leaders who reject the status quo, and reject the difficulty of the situation by providing an optimistic path forward will be the most successful.   Our teammates, colleagues, employees and partners naturally gravitate to the leaders who provide an optimistic path forward out of the doom and gloom.  Many of the speakers point to cases in business, politics, science, and other industries where breakthroughs were achieved.  One of the speakers used this “Optimism is the greatest act of rebellion” phrase – but I cannot remember who – so forgive me for not attributing it properly!

3) Authoritarian models of leadership are a thing of the past.  Tomorrow’s leaders have to be more collaborative and be the very best be at influencing others to drive action and consensus.  This requires deep, fundamental listening to stakeholders and constituents, the ability to find common ground to move solutions forward, and the servant leadership model that asserts leaders are simply stewards of resources and have a profound responsibility to stakeholders to achieve the right outcomes with humility and respect.

It was a real privilege to be at such a gathering of leaders.   You can see many of their comments in video format at this site – be sure to check it out


Follow-on Thoughts – Our Creativity Dialogue and Liberal Arts Education

I’ve received lots of comments – mostly all in agreement – on my last post about creativity and skills….. and someone also pointed out this article on CNN that makes a similar argument.  It’s an Op-Ed piece by Michael S. Roth – who is a professor  at Wesleyan University.   Some of what he points out includes –

“A well-rounded education gave graduates more tools with which to solve problems, broader perspectives through which to see opportunities and a deeper capacity to build a more humane society.”

You might want to check it out….

Creativity?- Who Should You Hire?

As I work around the world with colleges and universities on how they can change their curriculum to both be more engaging to students and better develop them to be successful in the next decade – I’m frequently asked by students and parents what majors should be selected to give the best job opportunities.

Usually my answer goes like this “You should study what you are most interested in and along the way ensure you try to minor or get experience in some area that will be a good means to find a job. ”

At IBM we’ve been talking for two years now about the need to develop “T-shaped” students – students who are deep in an area of expertise, but also have broad skills in a range of areas.  A good example would be someone deep in engineering who has also taken some computer science and business courses, or someone deep in energy science who has some experience in public policy and IT networking.   Why?  Because the most challenging problems we face in building a Smarter Planet require solutions that are focused at the intersection of these fields –

  • SmartGrid deployments require the intersection of energy skills, IT skills, public policy around pricing and privacy, etc.
  • Smarter Healthcare requires a mix of analytics, business management, healthcare policy, and deep usage of technology to integrate medical records across systems and providers.
  • Smarter Cities projects bring together leaders in transportation, civic affairs, healthcare, safety and security, energy and even smarter water and waste management.  Each of these areas require experts to deploy new ways of integrating these systems to improve the quality of life in places like Rio, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Shanghai and even New York City.

IBM has been looking across many of our Smarter Planet projects all around the globe, and one of the distinguishing factors that sets the most successful projects apart from others is the degree of creative leadership that is in place on the project.  That’s right – creative leadership might be the trump factor.

Why?   I think it’ s because these projects require a strong vision of “what’s truly possible” in the face of so many obstacles.  Getting a network of city agencies, along with public and private leaders and stakeholders, to work together without being limited by the long list of obstacles and constraints takes strong creative leadership.

And how best to find this type of creative leadership?  New research that was published by Tony Golsby-Smith in Harvard Business Review says that companies and institutions should hire students from the Humanities.

As a graduate of Saint Anselm College – a liberal arts school known for it’s great work in the Humanities – I couldn’t agree more!

Be sure to check out the article – it outlines four of the key reasons that humanities graduates are great at solving very complex problems.

Indian Perspective on Global Leadership

As many of you know, I’ve been traveling in India last week and this week to work both with key software partners, as well as to spend time with our rapidly expanding IBM India Software Marketing Center of Excellence.

As part of IBM’s transformation to become a globally integrated enterprise, our goal is to ensure we are leverage the best talent available all around the world, while simultaneously shifting talent to the best market opportunities.  Obviously this requires quite an adept organization and strong leadership to ensure we are always focusing on the right product areas (software, services, high-value servers and not longer PCs), the right geographic markets (more focus on high-growth emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, etc.) and the right client opportunities (more focus in the last few years on small and mid-size clients.)

Managing to keep, retain, and shift talent to meet this ever changing business dynamic requires careful leadership and a truly global perspective.   As I sat at breakfast this morning in Mumbai, India I was reading today’s The Economic Times – and ironically enough, they had a piece on their op-ed page that talks precisely about global leadership and managing talent.  The author – Kumar Mangalam Birla is chairman of the Aditya Birla Group – which is a $28B Indian Company that is part of the Fortune 500 and has subsidiaries that compete in everything from cement and aluminum production to mobile telephones and grocery stores.

In his piece that was printed today he argues that –

Being a true-blue MNC [multi-national company] is only partly about geographic spread. It is relatively simple to address cross-border issues pertaining to technology, finance, markets and products. But extremely difficult to cope up with challenges relating to the human dimension. Global leadership is all about developing a mindset that wants to leverage resources seamlessly, across geographic boundaries. A mindset that is eager to build unique capabilities, to transcend the barriers of cultures in order to create value. It’s about being global in attitudes — but without letting go of your roots.”

I think this offers a great perspective on the true nature of global leadership.  Last week I had the privilege of meeting many of our newest members of the  IBM Software Marketing Center of Excellence Team here in India – and I know they will help us blaze the trail toward creating the best possible value for our IBM clients by leveraging resources seamlessly regardless of their geographic location.

Below are a couple of photos of our new teammates!


rountable talking with India Team