Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff has been dubbed "Tech's Mad Genius" and "The Decade's Top Innovator" for a reason. Benioff created Salesforce with the desire to innovate and disrupt an industry that seems to always been in flux. To enter the tech industry with that mindset is a sign of sound leadership. To actually execute that dream, however, requires a pioneer.
Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an experienced manager, there's a lot to learn from his ambition and energy. I've worked with a ton of leaders, but there were not many whose passion for their business surpassed Benioff's.
Here are just a few lessons to take away from Benioff's strategy:
1. Never stop trying to discover the next big thing.
In a Forbes profile, Benioff dropped a few early hints about his company's new artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Salesforce Einstein, which will be revealed at Dreamforce on Oct. 4-7. Einstein, Benioff predicts, will power the next decade of growth at Salesforce. "If this is not the next big thing, I don't know what is," Benioff told Forbes.
But you don't have to have something as huge as a new AI system to push the envelope inside your organization. Always look for bigger and better ways to improve operations, products, and customer relationships. A leader who thinks there's nowhere else to go is one that should retire.
2. Adapt a winning mindset.
Benioff emphasizes the importance of a "beginner's mind" -- the openness and willingness to learn that often comes with a lack of subject-area expertise. In Benioff's case, this translates to an "insatiable curiosity" that has kept him -- and Salesforce -- on the bleeding edge of what's new and innovative in enterprise tech.
Everywhere I go, I keep asking "Why" Why do our customers like our product? Why do they buy from our competitors? How can we prove we offer the better experience? And of course-- How can we provide the most exceptional service possible? When I ask employees and leaders these questions, I'm not only looking for answers, but trying to study how they think. Hopefully once improvements are made by questioning the current situation, others will begin to ask why and improve the company in their own roles.
3. Never stop driving change.
Innovation isn't just about coming up with the big vision. Successful innovation also depends heavily on the ability to execute -- and a lot of that comes from persistence. "The more transformative your idea is, the more patience you'll need to make it happen," Salesforce Chief Creative Officer John Zissimos wrote earlier this year. And despite Benioff's energy and drive, patience is also one of his strengths. As he told Forbes, "When I get something in my head, it's hard for me to just let it go."
Leaders understand the importance of planning -- that's why there's an overabundance of meetings in Corporate America. But ultimately, while developed strategies and good ideas are vital, execution is what makes the difference. It is much more than hard work, it's about resiliency, knowing that you will hit potholes and successfully get through them. It is about making subtle changes based on the specific circumstances you face. Most importantly-- it's about not giving up. Persistence is the part of execution that often differentiates between success and failure.
Marc Benioff's ambition and desire to change the industry is commendable and should have a profound impact on the way you think about leadership. Forbes explores Marc's strategy and how he recently shared it with leaders at a Hawaiian get away. I can imagine his attendees feeling quite invigorated after that. It isn't about keeping the boat steady, it's about putting it into full throttle. Otherwise, you'll never enter uncharted waters.