A new CEO at Cisco, explained
It is big news when a long-standing CEO steps down or sideways as John Chambers of Cisco has. What a long run. He has been CEO of Cisco for 20 years. Although it was a surprise to me, it was carefully calculated and thoughtful from what I read. In particular, I was pleased to see that the company shared information about the CEO succession process on their blog. Interestingly, the blog post was written by Roderick McGeary, Cisco Board Member and Chair of the Compensation and Management Development Committee and Francine Katsoudas, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. The posting on a company blog about the CEO succession process is a rarity and I commend them on this.
The post is compelling in several ways. First, it’s on their blog, sends a message of transparency and shareability. Second, they explain how they went about the process and third, I was impressed that they included their CHRO as a co-author. Cisco clearly honored the CHRO’s role in the process which had to have been extensive and she had to have been deserving of the honor. Credit where credit is due a fine principle to live and work by.
I was also intrigued by the list of characteristics that were called out as to why they chose their new CEO Chuck Robbins. The CHRO wrote, “Taken together, his authentic leadership, cultural fit, technical acumen, and vision for Cisco, set Chuck apart from the balance of the candidates, both externally and internally.” The idea of authentic leadership as the lead quality followed by cultural fit speaks volumes and hints at what I am seeing as a trend towards more modest, humble and ethical leadership. The new generation of leadership that is emerging is more about the company than the individual. And building a culture is increasingly becoming a driver of CEO reputation.
I also found the Cisco board chair’s comment revealing. He says in the post that they wanted someone with the “experience and personality traits for Cisco’s next CEO, one who can execute successfully today and thrive in the future against a backdrop of rapid change and disruption.” We all know that it is not good enough to choose a CEO who can succeed today or in the short-term but someone who can excel five years from now and possibly even longer. That’s a tall order.