This post was originally published on LinkedIn by John Chambers, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Cisco Systems. You can read the original post here.
Mr. Chamber’s thoughts mirror the discussion we have been having the last four years throughout the UnleashWD community. Share in the discussion thread at the end of the article – your takeaways from what Mr. Chambers shares.
What I’ve Learned After 20 Years as a Manager: Disrupt or Be Disrupted
As a leader, I prefer to look forward rather than back, but as I transition into my new role as Executive Chairman at Cisco and hand over the CEO reigns to the best person for the job – Chuck Robbins – I’ve reflected on some of my key learnings from my time in the job. Over the last 20 years, I’ve had my fair share of successes and challenges. When I think back, I know that I’ve always learned and grown as a leader most when navigating through those bumps in the road.
Some of my key takeaways for leaders of the future are:
Disrupt or be disrupted.
Early on in my career, I had a conversation with Jack Welch, which has vividly stayed in my mind, about what it takes to have a great company. He candidly told me that at the time I had a good company, but not a great one. I asked him what it would take to make Cisco a great company? He said, “You need to go through a near-death experience.” Having faced many challenges as CEO, I now know that he was exactly right. Over the years, I realized that the bigger the disruption – or potential “death” scenario – the bigger the opportunity. Radical changes and moments of disruption can be scary and often uncomfortable. But when you get out of your comfort zone and tackle new opportunities and identify the market gaps that you can fill, you often succeed. It all comes back to what I call “finding the hole in the line.” Leaders must look at where their industry is going and have the courage to change themselves before everyone else does. They must disrupt their companies and themselves as leaders to best position themselves to win the game. This is how leaders are created.
Have a bold vision.
The best leaders aren’t afraid to be bold. You must make big bets and when appropriate take big risks, or you will only succeed incrementally. It’s important to surround yourself with a team that allows you to make your bold vision a reality, even when there isn’t a blueprint for success. You won’t always spot transitions correctly and there will be some misses along the road. But when you have the courage to make the right move and move as one team, the payoff is unlike any other. At Cisco, our vision is to change the way the world works, lives, plays and learns, and we have a team that is committed to making this bold vision a reality.
Move fast, but with discipline.
With the pace of change accelerating faster than ever before, the risk of falling behind is even greater. To compete you must move fast, but it’s important to do so with discipline, strategy and focus. I like to tell my teams to think like a startup. For startups, the key to success is long-term, exponential thinking, which also requires the ability to move quickly. But if you try to move too fast without a process that can scale, it can be just as bad as not moving at all. At Cisco, we’re always thinking about where we want to be five to 10 years out, how we can differentiate ourselves two to four years out, and how we’re going to execute over the next year. But this type of discipline needs to be combined with a willingness to innovate. You must also be open to trying new things or else you risk missing windows of opportunity. The ability to move fast, with process has gotten us through challenging times, and has helped us emerge stronger as a company.
Today we’re at an inflection point as the world moves into the Digital Age, and one in which the ability to think boldly and then move with speed is absolutely critical. With a vision, no-fail attitude, and discipline, leaders can move at the speed and scale necessary to come out on top. I believe these principles will guide the next generation of leaders through their own journey.
John shared his takeaways … what are your takeaways from his article? Please share in the comments below.