Lip-Bu Tan: A 'For All' Leader

Lip-Bu Tan: A 'For All' Leader

For All Leadership is how Great Place to Work describes the work that successful CEOs, executives and managers do to foster a great workplace experience for all their people. We have identified key traits that allow these leaders to both build great cultures and produce great results. One of the most important traits is humility, something that Cadence CEO, Lip-Bu Tan, demonstrated when he asked for help in healing Cadence, the second largest Electronic Design Automation company in the world.

Consistent attention to the larger mission is another trait that's important to For All Leadership. Tan tapped into this sense of purpose in hearing the call to lead Cadence as a permanent CEO, both for the sake of the committed employees but also for the wider technology industry and its impact on the world. When he became the permanent CEO, Tan brought the Cadence community together with culture-first messaging. “One Cadence, One Team” became the company's internal motto.

The data from Great Place to Work’s Trust Index Employee Survey capture just how effective Tan has been at creating trust in leadership across the 7,500 people who work for Cadence. Fully 86 percent of US employees at the company say management is approachable and easy to talk with. Another 82 percent say they can ask leaders any reasonable question and get a straight answer, while nine in ten call their leaders competent at running the business.

These results are dramatically better than at the typical high-tech company. For the industry, just half of employees say their leaders are approachable, or that they can ask reasonable questions and get straight answers. And just six in ten call their leadership competent.

Michael Bush: How to do you explain your success?

Lip-Bu Tan: Being a venture capitalist, what I bring to the table, is a typical VC mentality. Your product must be differentiated, you have to leapfrog from an innovation perspective and you have to recruit the best talent. I apply those same principles at Cadence. If customers tell me we do not meet their expectations of a product, I am very clear with the product team. I tell them, 'We are behind. So tell me how you will not only meet but exceed customer expectations and what is the talent we need focused on this. I will give you the funding and I will help you recruit, if you need to augment the team to be successful.'

Being a VC is also helpful because I follow industry trends closely. Machine-learning and deep-learning are trends happening now. And then there is the infrastructure for 5G in mobile and cloud. You need to be able to look at the five-year trend, not just customers’ immediate requirements when making product and investment decisions."

Michael Bush: Being here in the heart of Silicon Valley and knowing that some new leaders, young leaders, aren’t necessarily putting culture first. What advice do you have for them?

LBT: Any successful company that’s a sustainable, successful company, you need to have a very strong culture of your own. It’s very important to articulate what you stand for. It’s something investors care about. In fact, most of the companies I invest in, I’m always asking, “What is the culture, what do you want your employees to build and to take pride in?” It’s not secondary. It’s right at the center of the foundation.

MB: As a VC, you’ve described doing all the analysis and then making a gut-decision. And as a CEO, I hear you saying, “Do all the analysis and then make the decision based on your heart.”

LBT: Yes.

MB: It’s different when you’re operating and leading people, compared to making a financial investment.

LBT: That is correct. Along the way I’ve learned a lot. I get a lot of satisfaction from investing in companies, taking bets on people and innovative ideas and advising CEOs on how to grow their companies.

MB: Has the operational experience made you a better investor?

LBT: Yes. Now when I am in board meetings, I ask detailed questions about product design issues. Being a CEO has given me the perspective, and maybe the confidence, to really dig into issues with companies where I have invested.

MB: And you’re going to ask about the people too.

LBT: Exactly. I’ve learned how to scale the companies and also how to give them more advice about how to build a great company. And my job is not finished at all. You need 15 years to show the performance.

For the full story, read Cadence and The Culture Cure today.


Christopher Tkaczyk