Feature Video

Leadership@Cisco: John Chambers

by Joie Healy

Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers talks about his love for adventure, the importance of family and the few things that keep him up at night. Learn about his leadership style and what he is most passionate about in this video.

 Video Transcript

One thing that might surprise people is my high school sweetheart, Elaine, we've been together since high school and that perhaps is in today's world sometimes unusual.

I love to fly helicopters. I love to dive off of high places. I enjoy being around my family. But I'm a risk taker on one side, and yet somebody who I think has had setbacks in life and learn how to overcome them.

I was very fortunate that I had two parents that I am very very proud of. Both of them were doctors. My dad was OB/GYN and he taught me about the business world interestingly enough. And my mom was internal medicine and psychiatry, so when I got broke they could always fix it, but she taught me the emotional side and it's really a combination of the two that do that.

Three characteristics that make a good leader--let me just talk first from an analytical point of view. The first is results. The second thing I look for in my leaders is the quality of the team they build. Third is how good they are at being able to communicate their direction for the team and industry knowledge.

But you will learn more about a leader not on the really successful things they do, but in terms of what she or he does during times of challenge or failures.

If you think about where technology is today, it is going to increase at a tremendous pace. And what that means is it will change education, it will change healthcare, it will make our lives better, it will allow us to live longer, it will change business models, increased profits for business, but also enable people to be educated in a different way, and we're going to live a lot longer, so I think we're just in the very early technologies going to do for the future.

I'm most passionate about changing the world and how you use technology to change. I'm most passionate about when there's an opportunity that we go for the opportunity, or when there's a challenge we protect our customers, we protect our employees when they face challenges in their life. So I am a very passionate person. I've never ever yelled at anyone at Cisco in 20 years, but that doesn't mean I'm not passionate or enthusiastic or occasionally get disappointed.

((What Makes You Laugh))

[chuckles] My grandchildren. I've got a three month old and when he starts to smile I mean I just burst out in laughter. And my other four-year-old granddaughter, when she does ballerina or when she looks at me like her mom does, and my daughter-in-law does, it's something about women, they just go "now grandpa," "Papa!" And when that finger comes out I just get so tickled because she's about to lecture me at four years old. But everything she does makes me happy and laugh.

So what keeps me up? When it's my direct family or my Cisco family, when there is an issue that is very tough on. Or when there is an opportunity on the business side that is so important to go after, I'm worried about do we reach out and make it happen. Perhaps a third thought, whenever we let down customer, that keeps me up at night because I want every customer to be delighted about being part of Cisco, just like every employee, and when we don't do that, that's something we need to fix.