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It's all about influence rather than command control - Interview with Les Williamson - CEO Cisco Australia

Recently I caught up with Les Williamson, CEO of Cisco Australia. Les has been a confidante for many years and what we wanted to discuss is the concept of Responsible Leadership and the thoughts Les has on the subject.
Les began by explaining that Responsible Leadership is for Cisco about driving Operational Excellence and also Innovation in everything they do.

One foot firmly within the sustainability, business operations and month to month of what we need to do.

With responsibility we equally always need to represent all of our stakeholders, customers and partners with a focus on the constant innovation and change cycle.

Together this focus is what we bring to market as what we do. Inside Cisco it is referred to as the The AND - Operational Excellence AND Innovation. Cost reduction and new market innovation driving a high change and high dynamic market environment as well.

From a personal perspective, Les explained he sees Responsible Leadership as authenticity of leadership needs to come into play in the generation we are trying to lead.

The days of not doing what you say will be exposed very quickly in the current world we live within social networking and other ways we communicate.

Non authentic leaders will be quickly exposed via social media and other methods out in the market place. Responsible leadership returns us to that level of openness, authenticity and accountability.
Values are often developed through your life - what do you think about that Les?

Within Cisco we as a 25 year old company have only added one new value to those 12 we have had from start - Frugality.

But, we need to always choose the right way and plant the right seeds whilst making sure your values lead the market and work with customers in a way they want you to go.

In that way I do believe from a personal perspective that there will always be a challenge between your personal values and what your company values may be.

Coming back to authenticity, you will be quickly exposed in our current human network that the world now is if you can't be majority aligned with personal values and corporate values. Otherwise that struggle will be exposed quite quickly.

Les explained his thoughts on the Core Values and Attributes of Responsible Leaders

  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Authenticity
  • Collaborative
  • Decisive
  • Inclusive
  • Diverse
  • Disruptive
  • AND - not one or the other
  • Sustainable - not just environmental sustainability but People and Process sustainability
  • You couldn't say you are a responsible leader if you burn your team for a short term result
The Future - looking globally...

Lot more about influence rather than command and control

Given our role and situation in the middle of a region of Asia Pacific with 1/2 billion+ people urbanised over next decade as the middle class of Asia Pacific fundamentally changes.

We will play a much bigger influence role as leaders that influence rather than commanding and controlling of business into the future.

The largest businesses and organisations globally are just by nature of the region not going to be based here in Australia.

Our challenge and opportunity is to raise our influence skills and ability to effect change, lead and drive innovation as a position of influence as opposed to control.

This is required for public service delivery, enterprise and all business big or small as that is the way I feel the world economically is going to play out.

We have to develop influencing skills much more.

Within the education sector and training I believe we have the ability to do this.

Within the university sector I believe we are doing this within China, India and other parts of Asia where we are influencing the education process through an influence process rather than leading it directly.

For example a University in Melbourne doesn't have the scale to populate universities across Asia and command control the curricular, so we need to be much better about influencing partner organisations or completely separate organisations either through JV's or minor equity. 

It is all about influence rather than command control.
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