Leading Blog






08.28.09

IBM's Robert Sampson on Values-Based Leadership

Robert Sampson, general manager of Global Public Sector at IBM, delivered a speech to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, on the power of values to change the world. He says, “Technologies, no matter how game-changing they are, come and go. What really matters in industry and in government is individual character.”

Sampson relates the story of an IBM computer scientist named Arun Hampapur who was driven to enhance the value derived from surveillance systems, to illustrate the value of creating a culture in which people seek to innovate not just for the sake of innovation, but to apply themselves to the kind of innovation that changes society:
Arun Hampapur began studying the video surveillance systems in New York and Chicago. As Arun saw it, these systems had an inherent problem: They could ingest data, but they could not react to real-world incidents in a timely way. You could only respond to a criminal event once it already happened. That wasn’t good enough for Arun.

Arun and his team came up with algorithms that could identify patterns of suspicious behavior and then instigate a real-time alert. In New York City, for example, Arun’s team defined nine patterns of criminal behavior. A guy standing around in the subway on a 90-degree day wearing a trench coat and carrying two duffle bags, for example, constituted one pattern. A white, windowless van circling the block ten times constituted another. And so on.

Who told Arun to develop this digital surveillance system? Nobody. He thought it up on his own.

We haven’t yet calculated the revenue that IBM and its business partners will derive from this solution. But as for the contribution that Arun Hampapur has made to the well-being of millions of people he will never know—here is truly something of value. It’s the value that comes from having values, from believing in the kind of innovation that matters in the lives of individuals and of nations. I’d like to leave you with four leadership principles based on these values:
  • Be grounded in a set of values you believe in. If you are committed to every client’s success, you have to communicate that belief in every interaction with your employees and clients. And reward the people who look past organizational silos or who rethink existing technologies to come up with smart solutions.
  • Keep your leadership and management roles in balance. You have days where you’ve got to tell people what to do. You might have to kick them in the fanny. But you also have days where you’ve got to lift them up. The hardest days are when you do both.
  • Think huge. Wild and crazy ideas matter. What’s holding you back on executing them? Organizational obstacles? You can deal with them. Skills? You can acquire them. Remember that you are in the ICAF because you already have demonstrated your desire to think huge, to act on your need to make the world a better place.
  • Determine your legacy. If an organization thrives only when you run it, you have not made any intrinsic change. Leave something of yourself behind. Share what you know. Become a mentor.
The world is ready for a smarter planet. It is begging for strong, smart, value-driven leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:16 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about General Business , Leadership



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