Required Reading: Connecting the Dots


Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World

By John Chambers, with Diane Brady

360 pp. Hachette. $30.

While his accent is straight out of West Virginia, former Cisco CEO John Chambers is the consummate salesman of Silicon Valley. In the mid-1990s, as companies began to explore the fledgling World Wide Web, Chambers made it his mission to paint a bold vision of what the internet could be. His enthusiasm inspired customers to use Cisco’s products to connect to the network, briefly making it the most valuable company on earth. The stock collapsed after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, but Chambers went on to have a 20-year run as CEO before stepping down in 2015.

His desire to fan enthusiasm for disruptive technologies shines through in his new book, Connecting the Dots, co-written with former Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Diane Brady. Having spent his career on the world stage and on the frontlines of several tech revolutions, Chambers’ adventures make for a great read. But the bigger value lies in the playbooks that he outlines in every chapter. These are the best practices and strategies that he adopted at Cisco in areas like crisis management, communications, acquisitions, and, of course, sales. While some people might think standardizing best practices slows you down, Chambers argues that it’s just the opposite—and makes a compelling case for that through examples. He’s less interested in the lessons of the past than the potential of the future. A worthwhile read for anyone who wants to look around the corner.

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