ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé was already 2 hours into his flight from Singapore to Paris when the pilot's voice interrupted the in-flight entertainment.
A tech problem meant turning back, landing in Singapore, waiting for another plane and starting the long haul again!
Half a day later, Chehadé landed in Paris.
He'd already missed a lunch appointment but was still in time to make a reception organised at French ICANN board member Sébastien Bachollet's initiative. Chehadé gave a speech there to help spread the word about ICANN to the local community, before speeding off to the Unesco building in the center of Paris.
This was the venue for the WSIS+10 meeting, held from Monday to Wednesday this week.
Now you and I would have been straight off to the hotel to sleep off that nightmare flight. But not Chehadé! He kept to his commitments and looked none the worse for wear when the next day, addressing a packed room II (one of the largest) at the Unesco building, he delivered one of his trademark impassioned speeches to the WSIS+10 delegates.
"Multi Stakeholderism is the only way. But it has to be equal Multi Stakeholderism, where every stakeholder has an equal place. Academia, civil society, industry, users and yes… even governments… they all have a part to play," he said in a humorous nod to his government-heavy audience.
As soon as the speech was over, Chehadé sped off to another Bachollet-inspired meeting. This time at the office of the French Prime Minister.
All this only a day after he'd walked the walk in Asia by announcing the creation of two regional ICANN hubs, one in Singapore and the other in Istanbul. And that he'd be leading by example and relocating to Singapore for a third of the year!
Four months after officially starting as CEO, Chehadé obviously eats, drinks and breathes ICANN all day long. His enthusiasm and energy seem as infectious as they are limitless, whilst his people skills are second-to-none.
And perhaps most importantly, he speaks to people in their own language rather than imposing ICANN's. Literally. In Singapore, Chehadé highlighted his Asian origins (well Beirut is technically in Asia, isn't it?). In Paris, he spoke French at his off-the-plane reception. In Africa, he will remind people of his links with the continent (his parents were Egyptian).
In short, Chehadé is open, engaged and engaging. He is also truly international and respectful of differences in culture, ideology and opinions.
If the ICANN CEO is like that, chances are ICANN itself will benefit. Now I know us ICANN community members are not used to optimism, but perhaps it's time to put aside our cynicism and recognise that if the guy at the top can push those values, then maybe in time ICANN itself can adopt them…
By Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman, STEPHANE VAN GELDER CONSULTING
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