Essays on Leadership
Democracy in Business
Most businesses do not foster an atmosphere of democracy. As an IBMer of thirty years, I never once attended a meeting and heard, “Let’s take a vote and let the majority decide.” IBM executives specifically, at key decision points, are known to emphatically state, “IBM is not a democracy.” I never thought of IBM as a democratic organization, so it might be difficult to believe that Thomas J. Watson Sr. founded “The IBM” on democratic ideals. Books such as The Maverick and his Machine by Kevin Maney and The Watson Dynasty by Richard Tedlow paint IBM’s founder as more egocentric, egoistic and egotistic than democratic.
But Tom Watson Sr., never one to leave anything to chance, defined democracy-in-business for his company. He forged this definition negotiating a path through the recessionary fires of 1913, 1918, 1920-21, 1923 and 1926. His definition ignited a business expansion during one of the greatest economic contractions of the 20th Century—the Great Depression. In this 1929 Black Tuesday speech he articulated its essence saying.......
. . . You all look alike to us.