Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? is CEO Louis V. Gerstner Jr.'s memoir about his decision to take the reins of IBM, which was bleeding customers and money in the early 1990s, and the subsequent transformation of that company into an industry leader once again.

It was a fascinating and educational read for me, from the opening background of his experience at American Express and RJR/Nabisco to his successful strategies for leading change at IBM (the pace--and my interest--slowed somewhat in sections two to four as he went from discussing actions he had taken to outlining strategies, principles, and hopes for the future. It never became boring, though....the first section was just far more fun than the latter sections, for me at least).

It is easy to apply many of his insights to ministry, such as his identification of passion as a necessity for a successful leader, and also his insistence on a company remaining true to its core vision and sticking to its core competencies. These principles translate perfectly into ministry. And, though I don't think he ever described or even acknowledged this trait, I was frequently aware that he apparently had an ability to make controversial decisions without obsessing about the criticism those decisions would generate. He seemed to have both a healthy regard for constructive criticism and a healthy DISregard for negativity that any leader can envy.

One thing I wish he had elaborated on was HOW, when he came to IBM, he discerned what was needed and the steps it would take to get there. I found myself leaning forward so as not to miss his description of the keys to his insights and analyses...but he never gave them, at least not in terms I could learn from. Then again, there was probably too much of that insight that was simply intuitive and natural to him, given his education and experience.

Gerstner's book would be a tremendously helpful read for any leader, and perhaps especially for those who find themselves trying to turn around an existing enterprise (or church).


  1. Bob,

    Thanks for the review. I hadn't considered reading "Elephants", but you've piqued my interest.


  2. Bob, I have just published "A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant: Rediscovering IBM's Corporate Constitution." It is a book with a different perspective and the benefit of time to see the effects of Gerstner's leadership on IBM.

    If you would be interested in reviewing or obtaining a copy, I can send electronic EPUB or Kindle formats. Critical information on the book can be found here:



    Peter E. Greulich
    Author, Public Speaker and Publisher
    MBI Concepts Corporation