What can we learn from SalesForce.com’s CEO?

Recently I ran across an article touting Marc Benioff’s top leadership secrets in Forbes, which offered incredibly insightful perspectives. I have tried to highlight a few bullets, in my words, from the article referenced above. I have actually watched Marc, his team, and his culture in admiration for years. Their holistic approach to their work and the way in which they contribute has been studied with equal measures of skepticism, reverance, and disdain. Regardless of your opinion, I, for one, believe in the concepts he embraces as well as his implementation within his company. We can all take something away from his approach. A few highlights:

1.  Build a community. Be inclusive. Running a company is not about a few ivory tower power houses building a strategy for others to implement. Keep it real and collaborative.  Social media has made this so much easier – when we take the time to integrate every single individual in our teams in the work we do. As entrepreneurs, we can also integrate Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest in helping us to keep our finger on the pulse of our markets and clients. Communities, once built, are hard to divide;  and there is tremendous power in unity.

2. Confront, when appropriate. Often we try to avoid confrontation; few folks get off on ‘picking a fight’. Yet, glad-handing and smiling through passive aggressive disagreement it not the way to build authentic teams. Push when you need to push. Question when you need to question. This fosters open, honest disagreement – which stirs innovation and alternative thinking.

3. Pivot and change directions. This is oxygen for those in the technology field. In order to stay alive, we have to stay ahead of game, constantly innovating and responding to customer demands. This is not for the faint hearted; especially for those leading large corporations like IBM, HP, and CISCO. Yet, if a company does not innovate – in product, service, approach to market, etc. – they will be obsolete before you can blink. We can all learn from this example; regardless of our fields.

4. Create magnetic energy. Think about the guy or girl everyone wanted to go out with in college. Often it was not the most handsome or the most beautiful (though that was certainly a factor); it was the person with the whole authentic package. Smart, funny, inclusive of others, nice – really nice, and always with something fun, exciting, or new to share or experience. In other words – charismatic and infectious in their being.  The same is true in business. Everyone wants to be with the team that is passionate, ‘hot’, ‘on a roll’, and truly admired by others in their field. We do this by being real and tying our work to a passion greater than ourselves. Marc Benioff loves technology – no question. AND he really believes there is a revolution in the way in which his solutions are changing the face of his arena. THEN – you drink the Kool Aid (so to speak) , too. 

These perspectives clearly are working for Marc Benioff and his team; certainly they are worth considering for our own businesses!