The Red Hat IBM Connection : Be Like Lou

From the who do you want to be like files…

One of the greatest things about being a technology journalist is the opportunity to interview business leaders that are actually really interesting. One such leader is Red Hat’s new CEO Jim Whitehurst who I interviewed over on the main site.

Whitehurst is a real ‘business’ person. For him it’s about execution (which it always should be) and the fundamentals of business. I’ve found over the years that a key trait of the most successful business leaders is the ability to learn from others and perhaps most importantly have some kind of ‘hero’ to emulate.  I asked Whitehurst which CEO in the technology industry or otherwise was his  ‘hero’, the one he would like to emulate in terms of action and/or legacy.

The answer I got speaks volumes about Whitehurst, where he is now and perhaps where he is going with Red Hat.

I’d have to say Lou Gerstner [former IBM CEO]. A lot of that is because his
background and mine are somewhat similar. He came out of McKinsey as a
consultant, I came out of BCG. He worked at a traditional old line of
business and then came into technology.

I’ve done a bit of the same so certainly understanding how he made that
transition – reading his book and understanding more there. I probably
spend more time focusing on him. It’s hard to say ok, is he the guy I most
admire? I frankly haven’t formed a lot of those opinions yet. But he’s
certainly the guy I’ve focused on the most, very successful with a similar

Gerstner is an extremely important figure in the history of IBM. He arguably saved IBM from going out of business and in many ways is a primary architect of IBM’s current success. His book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? really is a classic for business readers.  Now is Red Hat an elephant? No not at all. But can his lessons apply broadly to someone like Whitehurst to turn Red Hat into larger entity? Only time will tell.

If you haven’t read the full interview, there are lots of other great insights in it too, so go check it out for yourself.

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