"No, the new gTLD program isn't ready!"
"Yes, I was wrong on the Trademark Clearinghouse!"
Fadi Chehadé showed some strong leadership qualities during last week's ICANN regional registry and registrar meeting in Amsterdam. Honesty and courage.
The ICANN CEO flew to Amsterdam even though he had been meeting the world's business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Just going to the trouble of leaving the high and mighty to spend a couple of hours with ICANN's contracted parties showed real business acumen. Registrars and registries are, after all, his main customers.
What started out as a speech soon turned into a heart to heart. As he responded to questions, Chehadé made some surprisingly honest comments.
First, he recognised that the invitation-only Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) meetings held late last year were not coherent with ICANN's model of community-developed policy.
I've been saying so all along so it was gratifying to hear Chehadé recognise that once policy is developed through due process, it should not be renegotiated behind closed doors. Even if the people trying to reopen those discussions are pushing valid points, they should be part of the proper policy development process so that the full community can weigh in. Another argument I have been making.
Next came another startling admission. The new gTLD program should have been delayed by another year because as it stands, there is no way it's ready for launch.
"We're like a start-up right now," Chehadé said. "We're working non stop, as hard as we can. But if it was up to me, I would delay the program by at least a year!"
When a CEO is ready to admit he might have been wrong, this not only shows the right kind of humility for the job, it also signals that he's using every little faux-pas to learn and improve.
Add to that an ability to simply say it like it is, whilst remaining positive, energetic and wilful, and you have a powerful mix of real leadership abilities.
After feeling Chehadé's drive and energy in Amsterdam, I am no longer so worried about ICANN. It has a found itself a world-class leader in Fadi Chehadé. Good thing too, because ICANN still has to deal with some major headaches as it struggles to evolve and be worthy of the mantle the new gTLD program has thrust upon it.
That of gatekeeper to the Internet.
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