Thoughts On Business Leadership By Rola Dagher

Rola Dagher,

President and CEO, Cisco Canada

Describing herself as a proud Lebanese and grateful Canadian, Cisco Canada’s President Rola Dagher appreciates every part of her journey – the journey that led her to Canada and provided her with every opportunity to make something of herself. 

Dagher began her career in technology 30 years ago and her focus on customers, people and leadership continue to define the leader she is today – a servant leader. She believes that to serve your customers you need to serve your people, the common denominator for success. This is what drew her to Cisco in 2017; the unyielding focus on customers, the culture of putting people first and the engrained values of giving back. And, at the heart of all this is technology – the foundation for all that we do, the catalyst for economic development in Canada and the driver of human progress. 

At Cisco Canada, Dagher’s focus starts and ends with creating the best place to work for employees. She truly believes that in the digital age an empowered, inspired, inclusive, diverse and adaptable workforce is fundamental to any company’s success. She also believes that through the power of technology, we can build a bridge between hope and possibility in Canada and in the world. 

What is your definition of Leadership?

Leadership isn’t a position, it’s an action. As a leader, I subscribe to the notion of servant leadership which focuses on leading people by empowering them, giving them the tools to make an impact and inspiring them to believe in your vision and become great leaders. Successful leadership, to me, is not about how many people I lead, but how many leaders I develop along the way.

What are the most important values and ethics you demonstrate as a leader?

Being humble, vulnerable and honest has greatly influenced my leadership style. Being me and bringing my whole self to work has allowed others to do the same; it’s helped build a deeper level of trust and acceptance amongst our team. I’m also a big believer in sending the elevator back down by using my influence to develop, support and mentor employees to help grow them in their careers at Cisco.

How do you encourage the development of your employees?

At Cisco, we like to say we’re architects of possibility for all people. That’s especially true for our people, particularly when it comes to professional development.

Nurturing development fits seamlessly within Cisco’s Conscious Culture. In a place where awareness of our environment and our interactions is a throughline to our productivity, it’s important that our professional development is rooted in inclusion and collaboration. Because when people feel safe bringing their whole selves to work, they can show up for their teams and for Cisco in groundbreaking ways.

What is your advice to Canadian business owners during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Businesses and organizations of all sizes are facing unprecedented expectations to deliver business continuity while keeping people safe and connected. Cisco has had a long-standing remote work culture, so my advice is two-fold:

  1. Employees are under an immense amount of stress and pressure and we must take care of their mental and physical health. For the Cisco team, that can be as simple as checking in with one another each day, sharing funny stories or even meeting one another’s families on Webex to maintain that critical human connection.
  2. Remind employees to be flexible as we all have different homelife situations and commitments. Now more than ever we must act with empathy for our colleagues who are trying to juggle children or care for sick family members – trust in and empower employees to build a schedule that allows them to maintain productivity while meeting the demands of their home life.

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