Leading positive change: A chat with Ginni Rometty

September 20, 2023

Leading positive change: A chat with Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty

Former CEO of IBM

Read more about my chat about everything from her leadership principles to AI with former CEO and current co-chair of OneTen, Ginni Rometty.

I recently had the privilege of sitting down to chat with Ginni Rometty, the former Chair and CEO of IBM and the current Co-Chair of OneTen, an organization that has set out to close the opportunity gap for Black talent and those who do not have a four-year degree. Ginni is also an esteemed author, having written Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World, which serves as not just a memoir but a playbook teaching leadership lessons and big ideas on how we can all drive meaningful change. During our chat, we had the opportunity to talk about everything from AI to how she became one of the most influential business leaders in the world.

Ginni’s leadership principles

It’s no secret that you don’t become the CEO of a company like IBM without having impeccable leadership principles. Although she speaks extensively on her leadership principles and methods in her book, there was one in particular that stuck out to me and that is “People don’t necessarily remember what you say, or how you say it, but how you made them feel.” Often, as a leader, how you do what you do is more important than what you do, and Ginni believes that this has been lost among many of our leaders today. When running and overseeing a company, your employees and colleagues look to you for guidance, and whether you like it or not, they will follow what you do more closely than what you say.

The value of taking career risks

During her tenure at IBM, Ginni held many roles, and one of those was starting the company’s services business. Ginni was tasked with taking the lead on developing a services arm of IBM that offered consulting. This role was particularly daunting for her, as she knew that if she took the leap of faith into consulting, her previous role would not be there for her if it didn’t work out. It was through this and several other large career moves that she learned to associate risk with growth instead of associating it with potential downside. When you try anything new in life, whether that be riding a bicycle or starting a consulting arm for one of the largest companies in the world from scratch, there’s a chance that you’ll fail, and you’re almost guaranteed to stumble along the way. However, Ginnie believes that, without taking those calculated risks in life or in business, you will never be able to grow.  

The future of technology

Although artificial intelligence has become a buzzword recently, it’s not a new phenomenon. In fact, IBM has been working on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence for decades, with projects like Watson and many, many more. This means that Ginni has extensive experience with AI and can give a very nuanced and informed take on what she thinks it will do for society. Although AI has already made a huge impact on society in ways that most people aren’t aware of, Ginni believes that generative AI is going to be tremendously helpful in almost every facet of business, from administrative work to the most complex scientific and health-related applications.  However, at the end of the day, the widespread adoption of AI is only going to happen if there is widespread trust in AI, which we haven’t seen yet.

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