Culture and Leadership at IBM

Published 01 Jan 2004
Reference 5239
Region Global
Length 19 page(s)
Language English
Prizes & Awards

2015 The Case Centre Best-selling Case in Human Resource Management / Organisational Behaviour

2009 ecch Best Selling Case in Human Ressource Management / Organisational Behaviour


To explain the role that corporate culture has played in the performance of IBM, this case traces the culture of IBM under four of its influential leaders: Thomas Watson, Sr., Thomas Watson , Jr., John Akers and Lou Gerstner. Particular attention is paid to Gerstner's impact revitalizing the culture and bringing the company back, in some sense, to its cultural roots. Analysts and commentators agreed that Lou Gerstner had created a revolution within IBM, but Gerstner himself claimed: “On one level so much about IBM has changed. On another level very little is different.”

Teaching objectives

This case helps students understand two things. First, the importance of corporate culture: how it influences organizational behavior and how it impacts performance for better and for worse. Second, how exceptional leaders influence and vitalize culture, shaping its influence for the better.

  • RD0904
  • AR2004
  • AR0405
  • IBM
  • IT