Leadership Principles – Louis V Gerstner, Jr.

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When I was a CEO of Prudential Singapore in the 1990s, I was inspired by many transformational leaders. One of them was Louis V. Gerstner, CEO of IBM (1993-2002). He is largely credited with transforming IBM.

A presentation on Leadership which I delivered at the Ministry of Manpower Leadership Summit some ten years ago, I quoted Gerstner’s principles from his hugely successful book, ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance”. In this book, Gerstner documented how he navigated the transformation of IBM successfully. It is a first-hand story of an extraordinary turnaround, a unique case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry under disruption and the principles of leadership.

The Gerstner Principles
• Manage by principle, not process
• Market-driven
• Look for people who solve problems, not hide behind the staff, sack the politicians
• Reduce hierarchy and committees: create new leadership teams
• Lead change from the top
• Thinking and acting with urgency
• Accountability must replace looking good
• Set priorities, with sooner being better than perfect

I think these are good principles, in my view. Not all organizations are market-driven. IFoA, for example, should be membership driven. Other than that slight change, all the principles are worth considering for an agile and responsive organization.