If you’ve ever been in the presence of an exceptional leader then you know the feeling—they can unleash a gravitational pull that motivates you to act and inspires you to achieve your fullest potential. Cisco’s Senior Director of Connected Digital Interactions, Steve Cox (my boss), is one of those people. He’s professional but fun, and what I respect the most about him is that he always assumes positive intent. Above all, he cares about his team and their wellbeing. If that’s not enough, he’s the smartest visionary I know.

By working with Steve and other exceptional leaders throughout my career, I’ve learned that effective leadership is contagious and transformative. It connects people with purpose. And if you want to attract and retain top talent, a great leader can be your biggest draw.

As the subscription economy has created dramatic shifts in the way we all do business, the definition of what makes an extraordinary leader has evolved. My hope is that you’ll be able to use the six leadership qualities below—which are characteristics that we value at Cisco—to increase your competitive edge in the changing market:

  • Customer-first mindset – Today, above all, it’s important to seek out leaders who always put the customer first. Your leaders, and by extension their followers, should constantly be thinking about how to enable customers to be more productive, more profitable and more successful.
  • Visionary with the ability to execute – A room full of strategists will get your organization nowhere. Look for leaders who combine vision with the pragmatic understanding of how to execute and how to motivate others in their execution.
  • Collaborates cross-functionally – Businesses today are more connected than ever, and the accomplishment of a single task may require many individuals and various departments to collaborate. Effective leaders are active collaborators and work cross-functionally to move a company forward by balancing teamwork with efficiency.
  • Recognizes the need for speed – Leaders must recognize that customer expectations for a fast, frictionless and tailored experience, whether online or offline, have never been greater. To rise to this challenge, the “need for speed” must be embedded into the organizational culture, creating a climate that embraces swift decision making and individual accountability and responsibility. Hiring problem solvers, change agents and self-starters also accelerates the pace of business.
  • Clear and frequent communicator – Change is inevitable, and constant. This demands that leaders use frequent and transparent communication – with employees, customers, stakeholders and others. When leaders communicate where a company is going, people will always know what they have to do every day to move it forward. On the flip side, when communication is lacking, limited or inauthentic, it can negatively impact productivity, morale and overall progress.
  • Servant leaders – Exceptional leaders care more about the organization and their teams than themselves: they are servant leaders who place a priority on serving and giving credit to others—making their talent feel more connected to the organization, its vision and goals. They aren’t afraid to push for change and they know how to come back strong from a setback. Lastly, they lead by example and will treat others as they want to be treated.

When you cultivate leaders who embrace these six qualities, you create a force multiplier effect that paves the way to higher-performing teams, more satisfied customers, new opportunities for your business and happy employees like myself. And because great leaders never stop learning, on August 14 we invite you to attend our Leading by Example webinar to discover more about the effective qualities of an exceptional leader, and how supporting and motivating your team can positively impact your future growth. Join us!


Kelly Crothers

Director, Marketing

Global Customer Success