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What new blood looks like at Big Blue

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

IBM has always been known for its leadership training. So, why did it decide to rewrite its own book on leadership?

In 2002, incoming CEO Sam Palmisano decided that the Internet really did change everything, and Big Blue’s leadership model would have to change to reflect the new “on-demand” marketplace.

By summer 2003, IBM had identified 33 executives as outstanding leaders in the new on-demand era. Next, it put these leaders under a microscope to find out how they saw their jobs and the company, how they interacted with people, and how they set and met goals. Here’s what it found:

The 33 leaders were adept at “collaborative influence,” in which several units might collaborate on fixing a client’s problem. That requires successfully organizing and directing people who don’t report to you.

Example: Frank Squillante is in charge of the company’s intranet strategy, which provides applications for 325,000 employees and 100,000 business partners. If he tried to pull the old command-and-control routine and order somebody to do something, “the whole thing would break down.”

Today, if you’re a leader at IBM, here’s what you’re graded on: innovation that produces results, dedication to every client’s success, trust and personal responsibility.

Some early results: Cross-functional IBM teams helped Mobil Travel Guides evolve from a travel content provider to a custom travel-planning service, and three Big Blue units joined forces to help Nextel improve its customer service.

— Adapted from “IBM’s Management Makeover,” Linda Tischler, Fast Company.

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