Speaker's Profile


Louis Gerstner, Jr.

Former Chairman and CEO, IBM

A relentless transformational leader who navigated shifting economic and marketplace realities to reinvent IBM, Lou Gerstner personifies today’s global corporate leader: visionary, strategic, determined and intensely focused.

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. served as chief executive officer and chairman of the board of IBM Corporation from April 1993 to March 2002 and chairman until his retirement in December 2002.

Following IBM, Mr. Gerstner joined The Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm located in Washington, D.C. He served as chairman from January 2003 until October 2008 and upon retiring from that position, he continued as a senior advisor to Carlyle through September 2016.

Before joining IBM Mr. Gerstner served as chairman and chief executive officer of RJR Nabisco, Inc. Prior to that he served as President of the American Express Company and was a director of the management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., Inc.

A native of Mineola, New York, Mr. Gerstner received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Dartmouth College in 1963 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1965. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from a number of U.S. universities.

Mr. Gerstner is chairman of the board of directors of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; vice chairman of the board of the American Museum of Natural History; a member of the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and chairman of the board of Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. In past years he served on a number of public company boards including Bristol-Myers Squibb, The New York Times, American Express, AT&T, and Caterpillar, Inc.

A lifetime advocate of the importance of quality K-12 education in America, Gerstner created The Teaching Commission in 2003 to develop specific policy recommendations to raise the stature, performance and accountability of teachers in U.S. schools. From 1996 to 2002, he co-chaired Achieve, an organization created by U.S. Governors and business leaders to drive high academic standards for public schools in the United States. At IBM he established Reinventing Education as a strategic partnership with 21 states and school districts which utilize IBM technology and technical assistance to eliminate key barriers to school reform and improve student performance.

He has received numerous awards for his work in education, among them the “Cleveland E. Dodge Medal for Distinguished Service to Education” from Teachers College, Columbia University, and the “Distinguished Service to Science and Education Award” from the American Museum of Natural History. In recognition of his work on behalf of public education, as well as his business accomplishments, Gerstner was awarded the designation of honorary Knight of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2001.

Mr. Gerstner is the author of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, the best-selling account of IBM’s transformation; and he is the co-author of the book Reinventing Education:Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools.


Leadership and Transformation: A Conversation With Lou Gerstner

Changing a culture is near impossible—and a key reason as to why so many great companies fail. So was the case of corporate stalwart IBM, whose lumbering corporate culture held back innovation and threatened the financial stability of the once-great technology company. By rewarding teamwork, embracing a take charge culture and improving employee morale with the introduction of pay for performance, Lou Gerstner’s transformational leadership unleashed one of the most improbable turnaround story’s in corporate history. In a moderated question and answer format, Gerstner shares his lessons from IBM and shows how today’s business leaders can learn from the challenges and issues he faced at the helm of one of the most recognized companies in the world. Gerstner invites audiences to participate in a discussion about the most pressing business issues their organization currently faces, providing candid insight from his three decades of experience as one of the most successful and effective CEOs in modern times.

The Crisis in our Schools

No American business leader has been more consistently and passionately involved in the struggle to reform K-12 public school education than Lou Gerstner. The author of the book Reinventing Education, the host of three National Education Summits, and co-founder of Achieve Inc., Gerstner provides his perspective on the education reform movement, and the impetus for a national commission he recently created to drive change in all aspects of the teaching profession in America—from recruitment to training and compensation.

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■Lou Gerstner - How to Lead.wmv

■Louis V Gerstner - A quintessential organizational leader