Authentic Leadership & Joy

Claudia Brind-Woody has been with IBM for 20 years. She is currently IBM’s Vice-President and Managing Director for Global Intellectual Property Licensing.  She has made a name for herself managing high-performance teams. In a recent conversation, Claudia opened up about the significant experiences and relationships that have shaped her life.

Claudia grew up in Bassett, Virginia and learned to win and lose gracefully while competing as an athlete on horses in the hunter jumper ring. She played basketball in college and while attending graduate school at the University of Tennessee, she had a mentor that forever changed her life.  That mentor was the legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt. Claudia was her assistant coach. “Pat pushed me to be the best, find new limits, and help other women.”  

Coach Summitt served as a role model and mentor to Claudia, teaching her the power of authentic and courageous leadership. Claudia talked about Pat’s coming out with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis at a time when other celebrities with the disease were retreating into the shadows. 

As a result, Claudia is not only “out “ at work as a lesbian, she is a leading advocates for human rights in the workplace. IBM shares her vision for workplace equality and supported Claudia’s decision to relocate to a country that recognized her same sex marriage when the U.S. did not. 

Claudia is committed more than ever to her work after the recent U.S. Presidential election. “We are challenged now. Whatever privilege we have, we are challenged to create safe spaces, safe dialogues, and understanding.” How does she plan to meet this challenge? She has two essential tools she employs: the Golden Rule and her rare approach to listening, “I listen to understand first, and then to be understood.“ 

When I asked her about her greatest personal obstacle, she said it was being diagnosed with cancer. She has been cancer free since 2008 and has a new goal, “Not to delay joy.” Claudia recently started riding horses again. She’s back in the saddle and loving life.