Leadership Lessons IBM Marketing

‘Leadership is about creating a culture where people do their best work’ – IBM CMO Michelle Peluso


By Stephen Lepitak, -

February 16, 2020 | 5 min read

In this episode of The Drum's Leadership Lessons, editor Stephen Lepitak speaks to Michelle Peluso, chief marketing officer and senior vice-president of digital sales at IBM about how she runs teams all around the world and the experiences of leadership she has had in her career.


‘Leadership is about creating a culture where people do their best work’ – IBM’s CMO Michelle Peluso

During the interview, Peluso spoke on various topics around her views on leadership, as well as those she has learned from along the way.

“Creating a culture where people can do their best work, creating an environment, a strategy, and a mission and a culture so that people do their best work possible,” says Peluso.

“Leadership, like everything, part of it is innate but a lot of it is learned. All of the great leaders I know, or have read about, what you find in common is that they are constantly reshaping their styles based on experience and it’s a never-ending journey and a quest for how to be better for your team and better for clients and better for your family. It’s that desire to continue to grow and be humble and it's about what you are doing well, but also there are many areas all of us can do to improve as leaders. You don’t just arrive."

She continues: “More often than not it’s the toughest things that shape leaders that really carve their mark in the soul of the leader, those difficult situations, those challenging times. That’s when you see leadership emerge.”

Peluso also spoke about a number of other topics, including maternity leave, being transparent as a person and in building a team with the right people to support.

Peluso admits she doesn’t reflect about her own leadership often but does consider areas of self-improvement as a manager and how to take her team and the charities she works with forward.

“The time to reflect on how to get better, what did you take from a situation… how would you reshape that situation? There’s a lot of humility and grace and confidence actually but I don’t think it needs the title of leadership.”

Reflecting on her leadership heroes she cites outgoing IBM chief executive Ginni Rommety, who Peluso has worked closely beside and describes as ‘extraordinary’ and as someone who has ‘blazed a path’ for female leaders while bringing ‘extraordinary grit’ and “grace and humanity,” with it.

Says goes on to reveal that women in history who have faced challenging situations have inspired her in terms of their leadership before, adding the former Citibank chief Manuel Medina-Mora, who passed away recently and who she also worked with previously as another inspiration, describing him as “an extraordinary leader” who had “incredible persistence and grit and a point of view.”

She adds: “When you grow up you sometimes hold this, almost fairytale view of some people who have achieved a certain amount in life, that it’s been this gilded path and when you really get to see leaders you admire up close and personal, which I’ve had the opportunity to do – my dad maybe chief amongst them – you realize that the hardest thing that every individual and business leader goes through, and every non-profit goes through – the really insightful thing is watching how people persist and find resilience and learn and reshape and grow. That exposure to people like Ginny and Manuel, up close and personal you see that, and you experience that, and it has certainly shaped me.”

Peluso also spoke about her views of the role of the marketer of the future in a separate interview with The Drum, citing the role of artificial intelligence and data as already being crucial elements.

Listen to the full interview with Peluso in the audio file above while further episodes of the Leadership Lessons podcast can be found on The Drum's website.

Leadership Lessons IBM Marketing

More from Leadership Lessons

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +