Leadership development

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IBM’s leaders are central to our transformation journey. Leaders can be found at all levels of the company and it is through their efficacy, influence and ability to inspire that our company is reinventing itself to lead in the era of cognitive computing and to drive new business value.

As we develop leaders from aspiring managers to senior executives, we strive to create innovative, experiential and practical learning opportunities and resources that foster an understanding of their role and purpose, while preparing them for an environment that is increasingly collaborative, self-directed and agile. With this in mind, we introduced a number of landmark innovations in leadership development in 2015.

Transformational leadership

In 2015, we defined what it means to be a transformational leader in IBM. Based on thought leadership from senior leaders, trends identified by external experts and expertise from the Executive and Leadership Development teams, we identified a set of behaviors that will help IBM redefine itself. We made the conscious decision to step away from the competency models that we have used in the past and move to a framework that is dynamic, fluid and fits where we are in our transformational journey. As we progress, the behaviors will change. We believe that the types of behaviors described in the Transformational Leadership Framework (TLF) are essential to building an agile culture and pivoting our company to cloud and cognitive solutions.

We launched the TLF with IBM’s top executives so that they could lead by example and then instill these behaviors within their organizations and across IBM. We embedded the TLF into existing and new development programs and developed tools for the IBM community to assess themselves against the behaviors. We are energized by the rapid progress we have made and how TLF has mobilized leadership development.

IBM Leadership Academy

In December 2015, IBM launched the IBM Leadership Academy, a portal to all leadership development content and activities. Open to all IBMers, this new resource features cutting-edge content, micro-learning videos featuring IBM leaders and external thought leaders, practical tools to help IBMers draft goals they can share with their manager, and a personal bookshelf to save the resources most meaningful to them.

We wanted to create an open, single-point-of-access portal to all leadership development content and activities. The IBM Leadership Academy has become an invaluable resource as we introduced the Transformational Leadership Framework and other content that is helping our leaders build an agile culture. For example, IBMers can find content on engagement, feedback, coaching, creating purpose and meaning, focus and energy, and mindfulness.

ACE app

In support of IBM’s increasingly collaborative and agile environment, we introduced the ACE app in 2015, allowing IBMers to give and receive feedback anytime, anywhere. Managers can ask their team to complete a quick survey to gain insights into their work experience. Questions include:

  • Are you receiving enough feedback?
  • Are you doing meaningful work?
  • Are you satisfied with your work-life balance?

Managers can use these results to identify ways in which to help team members thrive. Insights from the ACE app help IBMers to identify strengths and development opportunities as they evolve as leaders.

The purpose of the ACE App is to foster a culture of open, honest and continuous feedback. This culture will help Agile to thrive and IBMers to focus on how they can get better.

Well-being and resilience

IBM recognizes that a leader’s well-being has an impact on their effectiveness. Like high-performance athletes, we want our leaders to have the tools and support to bring their best selves to the demanding roles that they hold. This year we began to incorporate a focus on wellness and resilience into select leadership and management development programs and have included early morning exercise and yoga sessions.


  • IBM was named a 2015 Excellence in Practice Award winner by the Association for Talent Development.
  • IBM received two gold Brandon Hall Awards in 2015: Best Advance in Measuring the Impact of Leadership and Best Advance in Learning Measurement.