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International Business Machines: Leadership Development Proposal

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Updated: Jun 27th, 2020


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 recent 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).

IBM ought to take action and reform its leadership styles. Research has shown that effectiveness is measured depending on the people’s achievements, their skills, and behavior. IBM has vast resources at its disposal. By contrast, IBM has been losing billions of dollars in paying fines arising from careless management. The amount of loss can be reduced if the company employs a management team that exercises visionary leadership, does things the way they are expected, understands the business and its key drivers, and can locate resources according to appropriately laid down procedures. The new management should be able to undertake innovation duties accurately, adapt and respond to market changes appropriately, and anticipate problems before they happen. Moreover, it should handle problems that arise unexpectedly with sufficient care. Leaders that use these techniques are transformational.

IBM’s management failed to be responsible following inadequate appreciation of past mistakes. Transformational leaders are good at learning from the past. To solve the challenges sufficiently, the company should employ transformational leaders. The frequent rate at which suits are filed against IBM demonstrates the inability of the current leaders to take charge of the company’s operations. 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).

Research Question and Objectives

Research Question

The global business environment is filled with dynamism and change 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 is aims to:

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

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 the firm 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).

Environment Scan: The other component is the scan of the environment that involves the establishment of various challenges existing in the business environment together with the opportunities that a firm can exploit in order to meet its set objectives. Under this component, the firm collects, scrutinizes, and provides information related to formulation of strategies from the environment. The scanning of the environment may involve SWOT and PESTEL analyses that analyze both the internal and external environments of the firm. The scrutiny of the environment should be continuous so that a clear picture of the factors affecting the firm both internally and externally can be established and accurate strategies formulated (Scott-Halsell, Shumate & Blum 2008).

Strategy Formulation: This feature of a business plan is significant since it is related to the existing challenges and opportunities of the firm closely. Through this process, the firm decides the best strategy that it can take in order to meet its set objectives and therefore end up attaining its set purpose. The common strategies are corporate, business and functional strategies that have to be incorporated in the business plan (Hitt & Hoslisson 2008).

Strategy Implementation: Under strategic management processes, implementation of a strategy is one of the important steps toward achievement of company goals. Formulation of strategies does not stop there. There is need to implement the strategies through stipulated measures in order to attain set goals. As the strategy is put into action, the firm may implement various things such as designing its structure, manufacture and distribution of products, development of the process of decision-making and managing human resources among others (Sher & Lee 2004).

Monitoring and Evaluation: it is another significant step in planning where the implemented strategy has to be monitored to ensure that it is implemented as stipulated in the strategy guidelines. In addition, effective implementation will ensure that set objectives are achieved. As the final step of strategy management, evaluation involves appraising the strategy in terms of internal and external factors that form the root of the strategy (Eeden, Cilliers & Deventer, 2008). Through evaluation, a firm ensures that the formulated strategy and its implementation meet the organization set objectives. All these steps are conducted in a chronological order to ensure efficiency and attainment of the company’s purposes (Harris & Bromiley 2007).

Personality is the constant realignment of the psychological systems within an individual that determines his adaptations to the immediate environment. It is reflected by external traits or internal manifestations demonstrable by external acts. 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, the consistency thereof is sometimes affected by structures, cultures, beliefs, norms, and environments within which the individual is operating. 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.

Tim Johnson demonstrates Type ‘A’ Personality. These individuals have an unsettled mind when it comes to making and implementing of decisions. Additionally, they would want to see changes effected immediately when they settle their mind to do something. Tim, having realized the disorganized nature the company was operating in day one, went to sleep having a headache. The next day he woke up early to see for himself what the morning staffs do before office hours. This is a sign of empathy. This completely contrasts to the previous CEO who took no interest in the affairs of the workers. Hence, the previous CEO had a type B personality. 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. She did not care about her staff and never really got interested in what they did. Since the company was making huge profits, it follows that she would only concentrate on impressing her bosses. This demonstrates the fact that she was arrogant to the staff, had a high sense of self-importance, and was constantly looking to hurt others in order to justify it. 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. 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. However, their application is based upon 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. Hence, the club amasses huge profits but leaves huge lacunas in the management of human resources. This leads to hospitalization of a number of them because of accidents at work and stress related absenteeism. However, the other CEO takes on an empathetic route. He takes an active role in ensuring that employees get the best from their work and are adequately motivated. However, he personally believes that employees are not only motivated by money hence he does not take that route. Rather, he embarks on reconstructing the structures of the company as relates to employees. For example, he develops procedures, which clearly demarcates various job positions, puts in place job descriptions, and sets up worker protection policies (Hansen, Mowen & Guan 2007).

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). The two market groups are christened the mature market group and the emergent market group respectively. The former covers traditional markets such as United States and Australia. The latter covers emerging markets such as Brazil, Africa and a huge part of Asia. Using this two-pronged strategy, the company has continued to localize its operations. 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 destination of sales cannot be singled out, tremendous growth in the market for tablets in China is notable. The company came in second in tablet sales in China after Apple. 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 is directed towards improvement in digital penetration across those nations. 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).

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 attained. Functional leadership is often used for 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.

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.


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. In interviews, the respondent provides the primary data for the study and the views of the researcher are not important as most of the information comes from the respondent. The respondents are able to give their conceptualizations and interpretations regarding the topic under study.

Interviews have the following advantages

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 data from open-ended interviews is involved, 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 member of the population under study has an equal opportunity of selection. Hence, a well representative sample. 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. The idea is to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meaning these people bring to them. Qualitative approach allows researchers to understand the point of view of 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 as the process of systematically searching through and arranging interview transcripts and other materials that have been accumulated, to increase the researcher’s understanding of them (Hay 2010).

Research Ethics

Given the nature of this qualitative research, ethical considerations are closely linked to the deontological view (Creswell 2003). The deontological view asserts that the end cannot justify the means. In order to ensure the disclosure of accurate and realistic data from the subjects, the researcher establishes clear accountability. They include:

  • The nature and purpose of the study,
  • The subject’s right to withdraw from the project at any time,
  • 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 research area, literature overview, and general idea of research 16 November 2014
Research background, generation of 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 Internet. Where resources are used, full credit and recognition will be given where possible. Additionally, the researcher will use other resources fit for the research.

Reference List

Ahrens, T & Chapman, C 2007, Management Accounting as Practice, Accounting, Organizations and Society, vol. 32 no. 1, pp 1-27.

Barney, J 2002, Gaining and Sustaining Competitive Advantage, Pearson, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Castells, M 2011, The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.

Chapman, C, Hopwood, A & Shields, M 2006, Handbook of Management Accounting Research, Elsevier Science, New York.

Chase, B & Aquilano, N 2006, Operations Management for Competitive Advantage, McGraw Irwin, New York.

Creswell, J 2003, ‘Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Method Approach’, Journal of Management, Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 8-10.

Davenport, T & Brooks, J 2004, ‘Enterprise Systems and the Supply Chain’, Journal of Enterprise Information Management, vol. 17 no. 1, pp 8-19.

Davila, A & Foster, G 2005, ‘Management Accounting Systems Adoption Decisions: Evidence and Performance Implications from Early-Stage/Startup Companies’, The Accounting Review, vol. 80 no. 4, pp 1039-1068.

De Wit, B & Meyer, R 2004, Strategy: Process, Content, Context, Thomson International Business Press, London.

Drury, C 2007, Management, and Cost Accounting, Cengage Learning EMEA, New York.

Eeden, R, Cilliers, F, & Deventer, V 2008, ‘Leadership Styles and the Associated Personality Traits: Support for the Conceptualization of Transactional and Transformational Leadership’, South African Journal of Psychology, vol. 38 no. 2, pp 253-267.

Gray, C & Larson, E 2008, Project management: The managerial process, McGraw–Hill Education, Singapore.

Haberberg, A & Rieple, A 2007, Strategic Management: Theory and Application, Oxford University Press (SMTA), London.

Hansen, D, Mowen, M & Guan, L 2007, Cost Management: Accounting & Control, South-Western Pub, New York.

Harris, J, & Bromiley, P 2007, ‘Incentives to cheat: The influence of executive compensation and firm performance on financial misrepresentation’, Organizational Science, vol. 18 no. 3, pp. 350-367.

Hay, I 2010, Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography, London, Oxford University Press.

Hitt M & Hoslisson, R 2008, Strategic Management Competitiveness and Globalization, Thomson, London.

Holliday, A 2007, ‘Doing and Writing Qualitative Research’, Journal of Geography, Vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 14-16.

Johnson, G, Whittington C & Scholes, K 2011, Exploring Strategy Text & Cases, FT Prentice Hall, New York.

Kay, J 1993, Foundations Of Corporate Success – How Business Strategies Add Value, Oxford University Press, London.

Kirkpatrick, S, & Locke, E, 1991, ‘Leadership: do traits matter?’, Academy of Management Executive, vol. 5 no. 2, pp 48-60.

Manzoor, Q 2012, ‘Impact of employees motivation on organizational effectiveness’, Business Management and Strategy, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-12.

Masdoor, K 2011, ‘Ethical theories of corporate governance’, International Journal of Governance, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 484-492.

Mintzberg, H & Ghoshal, S 2003, The Strategy Process, Concepts Contexts Cases, Oxford University Press, London.

Radón, A 2012, ‘Luxury brand exclusivity strategies – an illustration of a cultural collaboration,’ Journal of Business Administration Research, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 106–110.

Ragin, C 2005, ‘Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity’, Bulletin of Sociological Methodologies, Vol. 23, no. 9, pp. 4-5.

Sarros, J, & Santora, J 2001, ‘The Transformational-Transactional Leadership Model in Practice’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 22 no. 8, pp 383-393.

Schreyögg, J & Busse, R 2006, Cost Accounting to Determine Prices: How Well do Prices Reflect Costs in the German DRG-System, Health Care Management Science, vol. 9 no. 3, pp 269-279.

Scott-Halsell, S, Shumate, S, & Blum, S 2008, ‘Using a Model of Emotional Intelligence Domains to Indicate Transformational Leaders in the Hospitality Industry’, Journal of Human Resources in the Hospitality Industry. Vol. 7 no. 1, pp 103-106.

Sher, P & Lee, V 2004, ‘Information Technology as a Facilitator for Enhancing Dynamic Capabilities through Knowledge Management’, Information & Management, vol. 41 no. 8, pp 933-945.

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