John Chambers is widely considered one of the world’s greatest business leaders, and today he discusses how he turned Cisco into a global tech giant with $47 billion in revenues and 70,000 employees. He talks about his early years working at IBM and Wang Laboratories and how those experiences led to his lifelong mantra “disrupt or be disrupted.” He opens up about his struggle with dyslexia, how it helped him see 4 and 5 chess moves ahead as a CEO, and why he encourages other business leaders to “think like a dyslexic.” He explains how Cisco acquired and absorbed 180 companies, how Cisco vanquished nearly 100 rivals, and the pitfalls of “doing the right thing for too long.” He reveals how Cisco survived the 2001 dot com crash, the advice that GE’s Jack Welch gave him in the company’s darkest hour, and how that close-call better prepared him when the financial crisis hit a few years later. John suggests the US could learn something about innovation from France, he shares how he’s planning to replace coal jobs with tech jobs in his homestate of West Virginia, and why he is making a big bet that crickets are the food of the future.
Order John Chambers's book Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World on Amazon. Today’s episode was sponsored by Heineken and Ziprecruiter.