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Good Power Enables Inclusive Leadership Amid Uncertainty

April 3, 2024
By Ginni Rometty & Lauren Chung

Ginni Rometty, former Chairman, President and CEO of IBM and Senior Advisor to Teneo, recently joined Lauren Chung, CEO, Asia-Pacific Strategy & Communications, Teneo, for a virtual fireside chat. The two covered a lot of ground, exploring how the concept of good power, introduced in Ginni’s bestselling book, can help leaders and companies thrive in a market beset by polycrisis.


Watch here


Good Power as a Catalyst for Change

Ginni started by explaining that good power is about creating meaningful, positive change by celebrating progress over perfection, leading with respect instead of fear, and embracing tensions.

Ginni also emphasised the importance of the perception of one’s actions. She explained that the way we go about trying to make things better is just as important as the goal we are trying to achieve. This is crucial from a communications perspective, as it showcases the potential for positive action to mobilise coalitions, build consensus and drive progress towards a better state through the example it sets.

Ginni then highlighted how empowering this can be for individuals, particularly in an age when daily headlines constantly spotlight a multitude of seemingly unimaginable crises. She reminds people that good power can enable every individual to become a catalyst for positive change.

Introducing the Five Principles of Good Power

With this in mind, Ginni dove more deeply into the concept of good power itself by sharing the five key principles that define good power.

  • Be in Service: This entails striving to make something or someone better by identifying and meeting their needs, rather than by chasing transactional benefits.
  • Build Belief: Use your influence to appeal to the hearts and minds of your people and inspire them to embrace change, rather than relying on your position of authority.
  • Know What Must Change, What Must Endure: This requires tough choices based on critical and creative thinking and honesty, but ultimately helps to reduce tension and build consensus.
  • Steward Good Tech: Build trust and champion inclusion by managing the upsides and downsides of technology in parallel.
  • Be Resilient: In the face of constant challenges, it is necessary that you recognise that change takes time and must be nurtured through strong relationships and a positive attitude.

Leveraging Good Power to Lead Through Change

These principles have been drawn from Ginni’s experiences working through the most challenging periods of her career. This has included leading IBM through a time of significant change and transformation in the face of new competition and emerging technologies which challenged its core business model.

Ginni spoke about how her time at IBM could serve as a case study for the principle of knowing what must change and what must endure. When she joined in 2012, she realised that the company lacked a platform for continued future success. However, she couldn’t just make wholesale changes to their business, as some might see that as invalidating the company’s unarguably great accomplishments to date.

From this perspective, a solution had to be found outside of the binary of past/future or good/bad. For Ginni, this came down to recognising that the company’s core mission and values could not change. These values had to endure, allowing them to continue to unite the company’s employees and drive its future without disavowing its past.

For IBM’s semiconductor business, which Ginni shared as an example, this meant keeping research and development and design in house, while making the seemingly momentous decision to outsource production. This decision, in retrospect, enabled the business to thrive while the fundamentals of the wider industry were rewritten in the proceeding years.

Stewarding Good Technology in the Age of AI

The example of how Ginni successfully positioned IBM’s semiconductor business for continued success also speaks to the principal of stewarding good technology. This is something that she highlighted as non-negotiable as businesses and individuals across the globe grapple with the implications of rapidly developing generative artificial intelligence (GenAI).

Good Power was published in March 2023, which predated the recent renaissance of large language models (LLMs), which are more commonly known as AI. That said, it quickly became clear that the principal of stewarding good tech is tailormade for addressing the disruption caused by the launch of GPT-4 and related LLMs.

Good Power reads as a playbook for coming to terms with how LLMs are disrupting labour markets and business models. Ginni advocates that you start by clarifying the goal of using AI, how it’s trained and how it is rolled out. This conversation should primarily be around people and trust, not technology. At the same time, you must adopt rigorous governance practices around the use of the technology which covers data competency, liability considerations and educational programmes in order to ensure workforces understand the technology.

Taken together, Ginni showed how these initiatives take AI out of the binary of “good” or “bad” and instead place it on a continuum of how and where it can be best leveraged to drive positive outcomes while minimising fear, uncertainty and collateral damage.

Defining Resilience and Much More

The discussion closed with a focus on resilience, which Ginni framed as a muscle which must be exercised to remain strong and effective. Please listen to the full webinar recording linked to at the beginning of this article to learn more about Good Power, hear about the experiences of one of the most innovative tech leaders of the past few decades, and learn how leaders can enact positive change in their lives, work and world.

The views and opinions in these articles are solely of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Teneo. They are offered to stimulate thought and discussion and not as legal, financial, accounting, tax or other professional advice or counsel.

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