Lessons in Leadership from John Chambers (Cisco): Keynote at 2015 IIT GLC Conference


wpid-20150724_091332-1.jpgHere are some highlights from John Chambers’ keynote.  He advised leaders to be ready to pivot and change, reinvent and stay close to the customers and partners, and get the market transitions right.  He said, the word “linear”, does not exist in startup vocabulary, because startups think exponentially.  Giant corporations need to think exponentially to remain competitive.   In this much hyped era of InternetofThings, Chambers observed that connecting devices is worthless, unless it is connecting right people, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Speaking at IIT conference, on his last day as CEO, at Cisco, Chambers said, as the society is rapidly moving from information age to digital age, those who are slow to change and reinvent, will get left behind.  Some of the top challenges for a corporation to move into the digital age include, deeply entrenched culture that resists change, siloed teams and lack of cooperation between teams, resource constraints, and security concerns.  Here is where a leader’s role is extremely crucial.  To move into and compete in the digital age, corporations need leaders who are world class in operational execution, said Chambers.  Explaining how Cisco pivoted and reinvented itself, Chambers shared that Cisco moved from routing to switches to voice to wireless to storage to telepresence.  Great leaders are great, not because they shine in times of growth and good fortune, but because they handle well the challenges and setbacks, said Chambers.

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