As a member of a military family, I was humbled and inspired by the presence of Gen. Colin Powell at our recent Citrix Synergy event in Orlando. As he’s a retired four-star general, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former U.S. Secretary of State, when Gen. Powell is in the room, you listen to what he has to say—and we were thrilled to have that opportunity at Synergy.
And while Gen. Powell offered insightful views on topics ranging from geopolitics to social justice to the secrets of a 55-year marriage, he addressed two topics with particular resonance for Synergy attendees: security and leadership.
Serving on the front lines of cybersecurity
Having first-hand experience on the front lines of cyber security, Gen. Powell spoke of the new security environment we live in, where “the rules of the road aren’t clear anymore.” Network boundaries are less clearly defined than they once were and bad actors are breaking through cybersecurity barriers like never before.
At the same time, Gen. Powell underscored the hazards of an overly locked-down environment. In war planning—just as in business—people need access to information to operate effectively. To avoid cluttering the system and rendering the very notion of classification less meaningful, “We have to be smart in not over-classifying things,” he observed. In the enterprise, that means making sure that security methods and protocols don’t become so cumbersome that they impede insight, communication, and productivity. Yes, security is important—but you can’t let it paralyze your organization.
It’s this kind of thinking that guides the Citrix approach to security.
Recognizing the unprecedented threats facing today’s organizations, Citrix makes security a top priority and a non-negotiable requirement for every product we deliver. At the same time, we also know how vital it is to provide the kind of transparent user experience that people need to communicate, collaborate, and move their business forward. Our contextual security technologies allow the right level of access for each scenario on a case-by-case basis, while security analytics and machine learning stay vigilant for any signs of abnormal behavior.
Given how highly we value the security of our products and solutions, you can imagine how proud we were to hear Gen. Powell say that “the way Citrix leads this movement is so vital and important.”
Leading through empowerment
Like any good leader, Gen. Powell knows that an organization is only as strong as its ranks. He cited a well-known story from the time of the Civil War, in which President Abraham Lincoln had just been informed that the Confederates had just captured a Union brigadier general as well as 58 horses. The president lamented, “I can make another brigadier in five minutes, but I can’t replace those horses.”
In the enterprise, those horses are the coders and developer who create new digital services, the salespeople and professional services teams who bring products to customers, the back-office personnel who keep operations running smoothly, the business analysts who discover new opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage—the dozens or hundreds or thousands of people in every organization who do the work of the business every day of the week. Just as with soldiers in wartime, you’ve got to take care of those troops, empower them, support them, respect them. “If you want to have a high-performing organization, make sure you’re trusting people and giving them authority,” said Gen. Powell. “That bond of trust pays off in remarkable ways.”
Of course, trust and empowerment must always be handled in secure ways—to quote Gen. Powell’s former boss President Ronald Reagan, “trust, but verify.”
The contextual access and security analytics elements of Citrix solutions address the verification side of that statement, recognizing that even the best-intentioned users can make mistakes. As for trust—for us, that means telling people, “We will give you every possible latitude to choose the best way to do your work—your choice of device, location, network, time of day and so on—because we know that you will use this freedom to drive the best possible value for the business.”
Perhaps most fundamentally, Gen. Powell delivered the message that “Leaders should convey perpetual optimism.” In spite of the challenges at hand, whether cybersecurity threats, market disruption — let alone the mortal hazards of the battlefield — the future offers boundless new ways to solve problems, discover new opportunities and build a better world.
For my part, the sense of optimism proffered by Gen. Powell lingered long after Gen. he finished speaking, and I hope everyone else in the room had a similar experience; it’s something I’ll never forget. The future of work, and the future of our planet, is ours to create.