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7 Questions with Michael Callahan
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7 Questions with Michael Callahan
Name: Michael Callahan
Current title: SVP Global Marketing
Current organisation: Cofence
Michael is a security marketing executive with the rare combination of branding, product and technical expertise. Proven track record in both large and startup companies developing and executing go-to-market and enablement programs that drive record revenue.
He is an experienced leader who creates a collaborative environment while setting clear objectives and holding himself and the team accountable to deliver results.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Most challenging part of my role is to ensure everyone in the organization understands the company direction and their role in moving us in the same direction. As leaders, we may say something a few times and think it has been heard and understood but it takes repeating many times to infuse the entire organization through large and smaller meetings with people.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started in sales directly out of college. I didn't realize it at the time but it was an invaluable experience to carry a quota and learn how to solve customer problems. From that early customer-focused role, I advanced through product teams as a sales engineer (SE), product manager, product marketing manager and the various functional areas within marketing. Ultimately leading large, and sometimes smaller based on the org, teams to deliver compelling reasons to buy our solutions.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My day typically starts with a 30-45 minute cardio or strength workout followed by 10-15 minutes of meditation. After that, it's responses to any questions or issues that have come in overnight and then on to the daily set of organizational meetings. I typically schedule short (30 min) "work times" throughout the day to focus on individual projects I may be responsible for. In the evening, my wife and I try to have as many dinners with our family as possible. It doesn't always work out but I aim to get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most recent leadership lesson I've learned is really a reinforcement of how important relationships are both at work and in your personal life. You can be task-oriented to accomplish something but this will only take you so far. To truly lead and accomplish great things as a team, you need to have strong relationships. And the single most important factor in building a strong relationship is trust. There are other important pieces like humor, a sense of optimism, a positive outlook, etc. But that all rests on a foundation of trust. If talented people/teams trust each other, they can accomplish anything.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I like the idea behind the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius but it's a tough read. I will refer to it from time to time. But I really found the book Forged in Crisis by Nancy Koehn a great book on leadership and styles of leadership. All leaders are not the same and you can learn a lot from different styles.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
You have to invest the time in your leaders to build the capacity. Leadership development is not a once a quarter or once a year meeting during review time. It's a regular discussion with the leaders on your team where you give encouragement and highlight areas where they are doing well with specific examples and areas where they maybe fell short and can work to improve. It's important to balance the concept ideas with practical and real examples.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
While it's sometimes short-term painful, having people you've worked with or helped develop as a leader move on to greater roles is incredibly rewarding. In the best case, you find growth and leadership opportunities for them within your company which is also great to see them take on more responsibility and influence. Sometimes, they need to take on a new role outside of the company to grow as a leader and it's rewarding.