Article: Ginni Rometty's guide to leading through turbulence


Ginni Rometty's guide to leading through turbulence

Ex-IBM CEO Ginni Rometty shares her leadership code (optimism, courage, resilience) for navigating change, championing ethical tech, and building diverse workforces.
Ginni Rometty's guide to leading through turbulence

In an era of relentless technological disruption and societal upheaval, exceptional leadership has never been more vital. Ginni Rometty, the former CEO who piloted tech titan IBM through gale-force changes, understands the formidable challenge first-hand. Her leadership philosophy, forged over four decades of witnessing computing revolutions – from the advent of PCs to the internet's explosion and AI's recent renaissance – revolves around three core principles: optimism, courage, and resilience.

Rometty emphasises that optimism is the indispensable foundation. While disruptions are inevitable, she argues, leaders shape their teams' mindset. They must instil a shared conviction in the collective ability to surmount obstacles through positivity and determination. But genuine optimism demands honesty, Rometty cautions. Candidly acknowledging difficulties, rather than seeking refuge in denial or sugar-coating, steels authentic optimism.  

"At the heart of leadership is problem-solving," Rometty asserts. So leaders cannot flinch from confronting issues head-on – posing the tough questions, tapping their network for insights, and collaborating with their teams to craft solutions. "Break down complex challenges into discrete parts," she recommends. "Subdividing makes even the most daunting situations feel more manageable."


The final pillar is resilience, cultivated through nurturing strong relationships across one's personal and professional spheres. "Diverse connections provide a vital wellspring of perspective and ideas," Rometty explains. An expansive network of friends, family, colleagues and peers becomes a buoyant reserve of inspiration and ballast for weathering turbulence with optimism and fortitude intact.

Ethical AI leadership

As artificial intelligence assumes an increasingly transformative role across industries, Rometty emphasises responsible development guided by ethical considerations: "Are we leveraging this invention to uplift society or narrow interests? Are short-term gains overshadowing potential long-term ramifications? Will it breed public trust or stoke fears?"  

She finds encouragement in emerging evidence that generative AI can "elevate skills and augment capabilities for underrepresented workers."

But multi-stakeholder collaboration among businesses, academics, ethicists and policymakers is paramount to ensuring AI technologies robustly augment humanity's potential rather than harbouring unintended consequences.

Empowering future-proof workforces

Rometty is equally passionate about empowering workforces with resilient, future-proof skills and competencies via a paradigm-shifting "SkillsFirst" approach that prizes individuals' knowledge, capabilities and growth mindset over traditional pedigrees and credentials.

"Too many roles considered high-skilled don't genuinely require four-year degrees for excellence," she notes. "But degree inflation has become an arbitrary gatekeeper, locking out millions of skilled individuals from accessing life-changing opportunities."

At IBM, Rometty spearheaded innovative SkillsFirst talent pathways like apprenticeships, "returnships" for relaunching tech careers after pauses, and vocational models enabling students to gain job-ready skills and associate's degrees alongside conventional high school diplomas.

"To thrive amid volatility, both employers and individuals must wholeheartedly embrace the mindset of relentless lifelong learning," Rometty charges. "The willingness to constantly upskill and re-skill, coupled with robust training opportunities, becomes the great equaliser for accessing economic mobility."  

Indeed, in an era of relentless disruption, the most valuable asset isn't a product or service, but a resilient, ethical, and opportunity-hungry core. This adaptive capacity allows organisations to continuously learn, evolve, and reassemble themselves. It's the key to unlocking the ultimate corporate superpower: creating exceptional value and driving human-centric progress in a rapidly changing world.

Check out the detailed interview here.

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Topics: Skilling, #BigInterview, #Future of Work

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