Will Cisco's Master Architect Certification Test Leadership?

Cisco's forthcoming Master Architect Certification aims to be the highest networking certification in the world. It is the one certification higher than the CCDE or CCIE. It should identify people at the pinnacle of their technical skills. However, to reach this level, individuals will not doubt need significant leadership skills. I've read many books on leadership and received 8 years of leadership training from the US Army - one of the preeminent leadership training organizations in the world. The Army approaches everything from a leadership perspective. Leaders were evaluated on everything they do since it is those leaders - officers and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) - that will have to make the quick, hard, and proper decisions when lives were on the line. So constantly honing those leadership skills - even if it is just for a parade - is important. I've often felt what sets me apart and makes me very effective is leadership. I am very good at technology itself, but there are certainly bigger geeks out there. But at an architect level, leadership, both personal and people leadership - means much more. As an architect you: 1) need to motivate and train yourself to aspire to be an architect. That takes time, motivation, and dedication - all important components of personal leadership. 2) need to work cross-functionally with many different internal groups, partners, vendors, and customers. This takes an extraordinary amount of interpersonal skills - being able to listen effectively, deliver a message, often to non-technical people, garner trust in people, and build relationships. 3) need to project manage and lead large scale network projects such as global network deployments that include other engineers, IT groups, vendors, and management. 4) need to lead and mentor junior engineers not only in projects but also about their careers. 5) need to develop and set sounds network standards in a collaborative environment and then hold the network (and people) to those standards. All of these take significant leadership skills, way beyond knowing which RFCs cover BGP. A book I read recently described leadership as a circus tent. There are several poles holding up that tent, each a characteristic of leadership. It's a good metaphor. If you are not good at any of the poles, the tent collapses. The center, and most important, pole is "Character". It is rare to find an extraordinary leader with poor character. The other poles are "Focus on Results", "Personal Capability", "Leading Organizational Change", and "Interpersonal Skills". An architect needs to be good at every one of these. So, if good leadership skills are a required attribute of a network architect, how will Cisco test this for the Master Architect Certification? Cisco typically tests only technology skills which would only be one pole in the tent: "Personal Capability". But how do you test character? I suppose you can somewhat test interpersonal skills in an interview or board-level test, but that is really only the oral presentation part of interpersonal skills. What about effective listening and relationships? This is an interesting challenge for Cisco. The last thing I would want is an architect who knows everything about networking, but has minimal leadership skills. That's not an architect, just a tech.

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