Name: Cesar Keller (CK)
Title: Founder and CEO
Organisation: Collective Brains and WORKPLACE21
Cesar Keller is a visionary global sales and marketing executive renowned for his remarkable ability to drive exceptional results and ignite high-performance teams. Beyond his executive leadership roles, Cesar is a sought-after mentor for CEOs and CMOs navigating the complexities of growing innovative organizations across cultures. His expertise in creating engaging workplaces and profound understanding of the future of work have earned him a well-deserved spot on the list of the most influential figures in this field.
Throughout his career, Cesar has successfully led companies through transformative journeys, harnessing the power of customer experience and pioneering sales strategies. With a notable career spanning technology, consumer goods, and consulting, Cesar has accumulated a wealth of experiences from renowned companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, HTC, Pepsico, and Accenture. His diverse background enables him to offer unique perspectives and strategies that drive success across industries. His contagious passion for sales, partner marketing, and digital transformation continuously inspires others and actively shapes the future of business. Cesar's deep insights into the dynamics of modern leadership led him to establish Collective Brains, a global learning platform curated by executive mentors. This visionary initiative equips leaders with the fast and effective upskilling they need to thrive in today's rapidly evolving business landscape. As the CEO and Founder of WP21, an AI-powered human platform, Cesar is revolutionizing the way teams achieve peak performance. He is an extraordinary force in global sales and marketing, an solid champion of growth, and a catalyst for success in today's fast-paced, ever-evolving business landscape.
Recognized as one of the top 50 global thought leaders in multiple areas by Thinkers360, Cesar's relentless pursuit of excellence and his talent for cultivating high-performing teams have solidified his reputation as an inspiring leader. Cesar's charismatic leadership style, paired with his unwavering commitment to building enduring and profitable relationships with partners and customers, has set him apart as an exceptional industry leader. Cesar's profound impact as an executive mentor and his dedication to shaping the future of work position him as a prominent influencer and a driving force in the business world. His remarkable ability to balance a results-oriented approach with nurturing talent has consistently yielded outstanding achievements and sustainable success.His passion for helping leaders thrive in challenging environments continues to inspire and empower organizations worldwide.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Cesar's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
I am going to answer that question in two different ways. As a team leader, I dedicate myself to creating mutual trust, inspiring, and recognizing people for their achievements. So, when I find low-performers in my team, that triggers a red alert in my mind to help them move on. Low performers can have a high impact on a team, and as a leader, I need to help them find their inner motivation to improve or to find another place that can be fulfilling for them. Those are challenging tasks for a leader, as they involve helping people to go through personal transformations. That is when all your mentoring and coaching skills need to be at their best. The second part of my answer goes to a scenario many leaders face nowadays. When you belong to a larger organization, you are a people manager and report to another leader. If that leader is not good, has integrity issues, manages by conflict, or doesn't care about people, it creates serious challenges for you to manage your team with high values. Those are times when you need to trust and be trusted by your team, work with transparency, and collaborate to give each other's support.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
It was in college. My inner fire was claiming for changes, and I started testing my influence on motivating my colleagues to engage in different group actions and protests. By the last year of college, I was voluntarily called to help solve students' group disputes and to represent us in different forums. My first job out of college was in a big consultancy firm. As a consultant, influencing clients through reasoning is your lifeline. To grow, you need to lead your tasks, projects, and your colleagues in different situations. So my leadership school was through influence and inspiration, without the pretense of power from managerial positions.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am an early bird. And I believe in mixing intense intellectual work periods with meetings and some relaxing time. Thus, I plan my day to have a great breakfast, drive my kids to school, and dedicate an hour to cleaning personal stuff with the potential to create a distraction, plan my day, and read the news. After that, I like to concentrate on my intellectual work right in the morning while my level of mental energy is high. After that, meetings, small tasks, admin tasks, and a time for networking. Usually, I go for one more intellectually intense work and call off my work day. From that point on, my time is my family's time. Before bed, I like to have some reading time or quiet time with my wife in front of the TV.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Do not attract a talent to your team without being 100% sure that talent is a fit for your team. When you find shortcuts to speed up the process, it is tempting. But it might cost you much time to work around the problems a misfit will bring. That is always a hard lesson to be reminded of.
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?
Mindset by Carol Dweck is and continues to be the book that transformed leadership in this century, myself included—beyond implanting the jargon of growth vs. fixed mindset, opening our eyes to the need to keep learning called our responsibility as leaders to provide those learning opportunities to our teams and help people grow personally and professionally. That book has given me the courage to leave corporate America and start my own companies, not coincidentally around learning and development.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
It does not matter how fast and high you grow, be humble, be grateful, and always care for your team. Those are the qualities that will build you a healthy network for the future. Power is infatuating but never lasts.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
When you manage a large organization with many layers of people managers, always maintain contact with the lower levels. Sometimes, the stories you are told are so baked and manipulated that they lose their true intensity. There was one case when I relaxed that norm for myself, and without further notice, I had to face a rebellion in the team about a leader not respecting our corporate values. It gave me so much work to fix the situation, protect the talent, and reset the team in the right direction. That learning became a discipline for me as a leader.