Training Leadership to be more effective across cultures

About Sisco
The client challenge

Cisco Systems, Inc. is an American multinational technology conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California, in the center of Silicon Valley. Cisco develops, manufactures and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and other high-technology services and products. Through its numerous acquired subsidiaries, such as OpenDNS, Webex, Jabber and Jasper, Cisco specializes in specific tech markets, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), domain security and energy management. Cisco is incorporated in California. For the fiscal year 2019, Cisco reported earnings of US$11 billion, with an annual revenue of US$51.3 billion.

The client challenge

CISCO designed a comprehensive leadership development system aimed at developing key capabilities, competencies and expectations for individual contributors, managers, directors and executives. It was seeking to strengthen and deepen leadership qualities at every level of the organization. Cisco’s approach was to ensure that employees develop core capabilities that support transferable skills and then build on these with additional functional learning with each new assignment. Cisco was planning to invest $20 billion in China during 2010-2015 to establish the Guanghua Cisco Leadership Institute – a key component of Cisco’s multi-year innovation and sustainability initiative in China, designed to create tailor-made Chinese research and executive development programs based on a curriculum of collaboration, innovation and globalization. The challenge was to foster leadership for the Chinese globalization experience and to build a comprehensive operational footprint fully aligned with Chinese society.

Our approach to Leadership


As part of an extended set of leadership development programs, we helped the leadership of CISCO to diagnose its leadership competence to deal with the cultural differences in the context of the business challenge of developing the Chinese market. Therefore, we submitted the Intercultural Competence Profiler to assess the individual and group competence to take advantage of cultural contradictions in the globalization process. Basic cross-cultural seminars were held both face-to-face as virtually.


The main idea was to build on CISCO’s strongly held leadership competency model with its final goal to create a “Level 5 executive” which builds enduring greatness through constant reconciliation of differences with paradoxical combination of personal humility and fierce will. We helped  Leaders to increase the awareness that both sides need to be respected so that a Leader becomes a “Reconciler in Chief.”


In our virtual leadership programs, we worked on the major CISCO dilemmas within the paradox of Leading and Serving. We contend that this is what global leaders need, as they more than others require the ability to deal with dilemmas. We analyzed the 12 factors of the ICP, to provide guidance on the skills needed in the day-to-day activities such as facilitating teams, managing individuals and controlling tasks.


We coached the HR family to integrate monitoring of progress on the Intercultural Competence of its Leadership and helped them to understand the Chinese better.