Leadership Development: International Business Machines


International Business Machines (IBM) is a computer technology company with a special interest in information technology. The company principally deals in manufacturing of computer hardware, software, and consultancy. This paper will analyze IBM from a leadership development perspective (De Wit & Meyer 2004).

Over the years, IBM has evolved to be the number two desktop manufacturer and seller in the world after Lenovo. Market analysts and experts argue that IBM is likely to trounce Lenovo in the coming years to be the number one seller of desktops. It is also notable that its affiliate businesses are performing quite well (Castells 2011). The company has acquired various strategic competitors and strategic partners in its bid to be the best producer and seller of a host of products. The most notable merger, and arguably the most strategic, was the acquisition of Nokia’s Smartphone division. Happening against a backdrop of the hosts declining appeal the world over and a shakeup in its internal operations, IBM was quite a shock purchaser of the division. However, it quickly turned this misfortune into profits and fortunes (Drury 2007).

In light of previously commendable acquisitions and mergers, IBM has continued this business practice in various countries. The company’s desire for global presence is the most compelling factor in this endeavor. Hence, the company continues to acquire small and strategically placed players in local markets where they shift. The practice is quite helpful with amalgamation into the local markets and eventual appreciation of its products in those markets. Entry into new markets from a local position is easier than from main headquarters (Chase & Aquilano 2006).

This paper will look into the leadership of IBM with the aim of dissecting the leadership styles demonstrated by the management and top leadership. In doing so, the researcher will look into the weaknesses and strengths of such leadership styles and their impact on the growth of IBM.

Research Question and Objectives

Research Question

The global business environment is dynamic with globalization and technological changes affecting many businesses. Due to these changes, it is necessary that firms establish the best strategies that can sustain their objectives in the future rather than making them quit the market. Following these challenges, firms have increased competitiveness using strategic planning with the management establishing existing business conditions in the business environment that are used to establish the best strategies that can increase competitiveness of the firm after their implementation. This paper will look into strategic management’s contribution towards tipping sales at IBM. The paper will look at strategic management from a leadership development perspective.

Research Objectives

This study aims to:

  • Find out the organizational leadership dimension of IBM Company,
  • Establish the efficiency of the organizational leadership of the company.

Importance of Study

The findings of this study will be important to the Managers of global businesses in formulation of both their corporate and operations strategies. Application of the findings will be helpful to these businesses to compete from an informed point of view. The information obtained also shed light on the most appropriate model in the formulation and implementation of the most competitive leadership strategy. Customers will benefit as their needs and expectations will be met in the products that the businesses offer them, which contribute to greater customer satisfaction. It will also help researchers and academicians in the advancement of theory and empirical evidence in leadership strategy. In addition to this, the study findings will apply in the general service industry.

Literature Review

This section will analyze literature regarding leadership development theories and IBM.

Transformational Style of Leadership

The leadership style looks into levels high in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which are associated with a basic outlook on life. A strategic plan involves various components that are significant to an organization. To begin with, the plan should have a mission and vision statement. These two are critical components since they stipulate the purposes of IBM both in the immediate short period and in the long term. The two components indicate the objectives of the firm. With these components, the firm is able to review them regarding their achievements continuously (Sarros & Santora 2001).

Personality is the constant realignment of the psychological systems within an individual that determines his adaptations to the immediate environment. The external traits or internal manifestations demonstrable by external acts reflect this. The extensive studies on personality have led to the concept of personality theory. This concept states that an individual’s inherent characteristics are demonstrated through their behavior in a consistent manner over time. However, structures, cultures, beliefs, norms, and environments within which the individual is operating (Scott-Halsell, Shumate & Blum 2008) sometimes affect the consistency thereof. The typology of personality traits has resulted in five major personalities of individuals. They include a concoction of factors ranging from creativity, hard work, anxiety, and goal orientation. Other typologies are quite specific or unreliably broad. They include a four-factor rating that breeds sixteen personalities and a broad measure that arrives at Type A and Type B personalities respectively (Hitt & Hoslisson 2008).

The current CEO of IBM has a Machiavellian belief that guides his attention to details, which is why he rearranges the details of the workers, and comes up with job descriptions and work procedures. He believes that ‘ends justify means’. The previous CEO, on the other hand, is a classical narcissist. In addition, it shows she was excessively looking for recognition and could not stand any competition (Eeden, Cilliers and Deventer, 2008).

Transactional Leadership Style

The leadership style pays attention to rewards and punishments in realization of organizational goals. Different researchers present varying definitions of a leader’s value. However, ultimately it can be summarized as a combination of evaluative and unwavering beliefs that act as a guidance in personal preferences for courses of action in everyday situations. Hence, values are a moral compass that informs an individual on what is right or wrong. Most individuals develop these values early and this makes them stable and true in their life (Eeden, Cilliers and Deventer, 2008). Although values are hard at forming typologies, researchers have made harried attempts at this, which has arrived at two broad categorizations. The categorizations are the Rokeach Value Classification and the Schwartz Values Circumplex. There is a direct link between values and personal behavior (Eeden, Cilliers and Deventer, 2008). However, their application reflects the situation. For example, there must be a reason for us to apply values to situations that present a case or remind us of our values hence leading to a compelling need for application (Manzoor 2012). The case study presents a situation where the two CEOs have to apply values they believe in. former CEO comes out as a person whose values are motivated by impressing her superiors (Eeden, Cilliers and Deventer, 2008).

IBM and Leadership Styles

IBM is a global company with presence in many countries. In some of the countries, the company has regional operations. Global penetration has been the model of operations, which had helped the company to trounce major players in the tech industry such as Dell, Lenovo, and Apple Inc. However, since the global economic downturn, the company has experienced major reshuffles in its operations strategy to remain relevant and competitive. The company has developed two business groups with different focuses. One focuses on the developed market while the other focuses on the emerging markets (Masdoor 2011). Using this two-pronged strategy, the company has continued to localize its operations (Mintzberg & Ghoshal 2003). The localizations have gone a notch higher whereby the company is producing some of its products in certain nontraditional countries such as Russia and Brazil. According to the company’s strategy, this is to cater for localized markets and to retain local jobs, which is what immediate governments need. This ultimately creates loyalty and drives sales levels of IBM’s products (Kay 1993).

The magnitude of IBM’s operations requires a coordinated and focused supply chain. The company is decentralizing operations with the view that this will strengthen the supply chain even further (Schreyögg & Busse 2006). The company’s long-term focus is to be the best producer of a range of technology products in terms of sophistication of design and engineering. Hence, the company taps into innovative resources such as research and personnel. In recognition of the ever-growing interest in other gadgets, apart from PCs, and the declining nature of appeal of personal computers in traditional and emerging markets, the company has intensified its productivity and creativity to create relevant products (Mintzberg & Ghoshal 2003). The company’s tablets and smart phones are featuring second in the global market with a notable appreciation outside the traditional markets (Radón 2012). Hence, the company needs to continue its steadfast adherence to operational efficiency to understand the performance of all these products in the various markets (Davenport & Brooks 2004).

IBM has recorded a continued rise in sales for the past five years. In the 2012/2013 financial year, the company recorded a 12% increase in total sales bolstered by the exemplary performance of the tablet and Smartphone markets. Although the company’s destinations of sales are many, tremendous growth in the market for tablets in China is notable. The company came in second in tablet sales in China after Apple (Sher & Lee 2004). The company also recorded a steady performance in PC sales. Although there was not significant growth in traditional markets, the sales of PCs in emerging markets was quite notable (Johnson, Whittington & Scholes 2011). For example, shipments in Asia, Middle East and to some extent Africa increased. The trend is likely to continue as more governmental effort towards improvement in digital penetration across those nations gains traction. In future, it is likely that IBM will record more and more sales of PCs in these emerging markets (Barney 2002).

Regarding the sales of tablets, smart phones and other technology leaning gadgets that replace PCs, traditional markets are the main attractions. However, in emerging markets IBM is excelling in the sales of its new gadgets (Chapman, Hopwood & Shields 2006). First movers such as Apple and IBM have entrenched themselves in these markets with notable authority. Hence, it is incumbent upon IBM to continue its two-pronged approach towards market penetration to tap into these markets exhaustively with its new products (Ahrens & Chapman 2007).

According to prominent leadership theories, an effective leadership must have control over its followers and develop proper communication channels (Gray & Larson 2008). The leader must be able to share his/her vision with the entire team efficiently. Moreover, effective managers need to have the ability to switch flexibly from one model of management to another, depending on the needs of different people and the situation. Besides, effective leadership requires understanding of exceptional methods of influencing employees to operate according to laid-down policies and regulations. The leader should earn the respect of other employees because of the effective ways of performing tasks (Haberberg & Rieple 2007).

Theories of Leadership

Functional Theory

The above theory predicts and identifies the behaviours of the leaders that contribute to organizational success. The theory suggests that a leader’s primary aim is to observe that all that is necessary for the success of the group is there. Functional leadership is crucial in the study and improvement of team leadership. Organizations have also applied the theory in a broader, more inclusive, concept. A leader, according to the theory, performs vital functions. Some of them include environmental monitoring, secondary activities, and coaching (Mintzberg & Ghoshal 2003).

The study brings out a very critical part in employee motivation. Clearly, an organization cannot motivate employees from this point of view alone. Many factors contribute to employee motivation through leadership. The author may have had an interest in these factors only. On the other hand, it is possible that he chose leaders whose companies had done enough to motivate employees using all the other methods. Although motivating employees using higher pays denotes that they do not have emotions, this is an old school of thought. In the current context, motivation using money should be the first motivational gesture employers embrace. Employees are struggling to meet needs such as mortgage payments amid an economy crisis. Hence, the leader loses the point of context (Hansen, Mowen & Guan 2007).

The diagnostic approach to this problem suggests that the consultant must understand the purpose, structure, association, management styles, the existing incentives, and other helpful instruments in the department before embarking on the process of solving a problem. The purpose of the research includes realizing major missions and goals within a specified period. The structure is the manner in which an institution is organized, including the existing chain of command. The department might be underperforming mainly because of the role assigned to it or the functions that it should carry out. Any consultant wishing to resolve any form of conflict using the diagnostic approach must understand the relationships that exist between various stakeholders in the organization. For instance, the relationship between the management and employee is critical in resolving the employee’s issues. In this regard, whether individuals work as a team and whether the multi-skilled teams consult each other in offering important services.

Technology influences the successfulness of any organization in the modern globalized market as far as management and administration are concerned, but the reviewed articles do not talk about them. The diagnostic approach suggests that the consultant intending to apply the approach should comprehend the relationship between employees and technology. The issues surrounding the underperformance of the professionals in the field of social work relates positively to management. Hence, the understanding of the management elements employed in the running of the department is critical (Harris & Bromiley 2007).

Positive Reinforcement

Modification of behaviour produces a positive reinforcement to people’s ideas and performance, which occurs because of the positive effect of leadership. Reinforcements provide a suitable stimulus to evoke the best performances of people. For example, when an employer decides to praise and appreciate an employee whenever he comes on time, it will have positive effect on him. The employee, in return of this stimulus, will show up on time regularly in order to gain this praise. Positive reinforcement is now a significantly successful practice in influencing behaviours of subordinates. It motivates people to deliver their best. Many large and successful companies have used positive reinforcement successfully to gain advantages (De Wit & Meyer 2004).

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership aims at empowering followers. Servant leadership style emphasizes patience and kindness, which can benefit an organization. I agree with stewardship and servant leadership when used in the appropriate situation. Stewardship and servant leaders take questions from their followers for the greater good of an organization. Ultimately, in this type of leadership, the followers become the leaders and followers views and beliefs govern the leader’s actions. This type of leadership can be beneficial to an organization since its followers needs and views are being satisfied. Steward leadership can also be harmful since leader’s are usually involved in all aspects of an organization while followers are usually only involved in certain aspects of an organization. For example, some followers are not involved in the finances of an organization but may demand new purchases or renovations.


In statistical research, we use sampling on many occasions. It would be hard to engage a whole population in a study because of the costs and time associated with such a census. However, in many a sample, there is the possibility of errors. Statistically, these errors result in bias. We also infer results by using methods such as hypothesis testing and estimation, which may not be entirely true in the entire population. In this case, IBM is an all-inclusive sample that helps the researcher to make a conclusion. To collect data, the researcher will use interviews. Interviewing is a method of collecting data from human beings by asking them questions for which they answer verbally. It is a systematized way of talking and listening to people in order to get information regarding a particular topic or phenomena. The respondent provides the primary data for the study. The respondents are able to give their conceptualizations and interpretations regarding the topic under study. Interviews are advantageous in the following ways.

More Information

They allow for probing, follow up, and it is possible to get in-depth information on a topic. They also have many disadvantages, which include consumption of time and expensive administration. They cannot be used with a large number of people as they are quite taxing and take time to complete. Chances of interviewer bias are also high especially in close-ended interviews. Analysis of data may take time. In a situation where there is data from open-ended interviews, respondents may not remember key information. In this study, the sample of the study will be workers.

Equal Chance of Selection

There is a random selection of people to involve in the study. This ensures that every subject of the population under study has an equal chance of selection. Issuance of questionnaires to the participants will follow. Each questionnaire will have five questions each seeking to get different information related to the study. Four questionnaires will be issued to the participants. Each questionnaire will take approximately ten minutes to complete.


Throughout this study, utmost confidentiality of the participants will be ensured. All information gathered during this study will also be treated with utmost confidentiality. No names or any other information that can be used for identification will appear on any of the materials that will be used during the interview. Each respondent will be given an identification number that will be used in all interview materials. Researchers will use tape recorders to record conversations. They will be destroyed after they have been transcribed and analyzed to ensure that nobody else, apart from the research team, accesses the information in them (Ragin 2005).

Research Design

The research is a qualitative study that uses semi-structured interviews to study an organization’s worker in their natural settings. One hundred employees from the middle management and top management will be interviewed. The idea is to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meaning these people bring to them. The qualitative approach allows researchers to understand the research participants. Qualitative research makes the study contextual and reflective. The main benefit to be obtained from this qualitative study is gaining knowledge about an organization from workers’ roles in their workplace (Holliday 2007).

Data Collection and analysis

Qualitative analysis is the method of systematically searching through and arranging interview transcripts and other materials that have been accumulated. The latter helps to increase the researcher’s understanding of the materials (Hay 2010).

Research Ethics

The nature of this qualitative research, to some extent demands ethical considerations are closely linked to the deontological view (Creswell 2003). In order to ensure the disclosure of accurate and realistic data from the subjects, the researcher establishes concise accountability. They include:

  • The nature and purpose of the study,
  • The subject’s right to withdraw from the project,
  • A guarantee of confidentiality and privacy,
  • How the data would be analysed and what would happen afterwards,
  • How data will be reported and published,
  • That ethical clearance from the University’s Ethics Committee had been obtained.


Task Completion Date
Possible area of research, literature review, and the general idea of research 16 November 2014
Research background, generation of the research question, and objectives 17 December 2014
Literature Review and Methodology completion 17 January 2015
Submission of the proposal 17 February 2015
Data collection 20 March 2015
Literature review completion 20 April 2015
Data research and collection 21 May 2015
Analysis of data and conclusion 21 June 2015
Draft dissertation conclusion 22 July 2015
Revision of dissertation 22 August 2015
Final Submission 22 September 2015


To complete this research project the researcher will employ numerous resources. The resources will be needed to complete the research successfully throughout its course (Davila & Foster 2005). Some of the resources will include the University Library, online database resources, Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Annual Company Reports, and the Internet. Where resources are used, full credit and recognition will be given where possible. Additionally, the researcher will use other resources fit for this research.

Reference List

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