The 2020 Leadership Challenge


Pros&Content Leading 2020 BlogEarlier this year, leaders responded to the sudden changes brought on by a global pandemic. Now, racial inequality has reached a tipping point in the United States. People are looking to their leaders for guidance in overcoming and navigating these challenges. MikMak’s CEO Rachel Tipograph joined Anda Gasca (CEO of Knotch) in moderating The 2020 Leadership Challenge panel as part of Knotch x Salesforce’s Pros & Content 2020 Connect event. Panelists Mark Benioff (CEO of Salesforce), Gwyneth Paltrow (CEO of goop), and Susan Rice (Former National Security Advisor) shared their experiences and what they believe leaders can do to progress equality.

There is no finish line to equality

Like all the panelists, Marc Benioff has felt outraged by recent events. He believes leaders should be channeling that energy into change and asking themselves “What can I do right now to make things better?” 

Benioff also emphasized that leaders should be reflecting authentically on their company’s values and using them as guidance. He explained that Salesforce’s key values are Trust, Customer Success, Innovation, and Equality. With these guiding questions and values, he looked at how he could use Salesforce as a platform to progress equality. Purchasing from black entrepreneurs and businesses, participating in philanthropy, and recruiting from diverse backgrounds are just some of the ways a company can contribute to meaningful change. “However,” he noted, “we can do so much more.”

We have a responsibility to include all voices

Part of making a change is seeing what the reality is. When reflecting on the role of goop as a wellness brand, Gwyneth Paltrow noted that “the wellness industry looks pretty white and it shouldn’t,” and that this trend is also apparent in her company. As a public figure and CEO of goop, Paltrow has taken action by speaking out about equality, and her employees are happy that she was able to take a stand by voicing her beliefs. 

“We have a responsibility to include all kinds of voices. I feel really galvanized and excited about it,” said Paltrow. For her company’s culture, she wants everybody’s perspective to be taken into account and be a part of how the business operates. One of the ways she’s tried to do her part in addressing inequality has been to try and amplify black voices. As part of the #ShareTheMicNow movement, Paltrow gave her Instagram account to Latham Thomas (@glowmaven) to share her experiences as a black woman and doula to Paltrow’s 7 million followers. 

“As painful and heart wrenching as this time has been,” Paltrow reflected, “people who consider themselves progressive and open-minded are being shocked awake. That’s a good thing. This discomfort will allow us to make choices that have lasting impact.”

We need to be specific and accountable

Without a clear process, it may seem overwhelming to make progress towards equality. “We’re long past the time where we can have nice statements, marketing campaigns and feel-good statements.” Ambassador Susan Rice explained that the steps that leaders and businesses need to take in order to successfully enact change are the same as any other business strategy: The first step is to set concrete, transparent goals and objectives. Then, we must put strategies in place to achieve them. Finally, we can measure impact and achievement. The key to successfully taking action now is for goals to be specific and for leaders to be accountable. 

Leadership that unites rather than divides

Focusing on unity, compromise, and community are critical leadership traits at this time. “Adversaries have figured out our weaknesses are our divisions, they understand they can weaken us or defeat us by putting us against each other.” As the former National Security Advisor, Rice is aware of the vulnerabilities created by division and polarization. “We need leadership that wants to unite rather than use division as a political weapon,” said Rice. Changing infrastructure, social systems, or responding to injustice meaningfully are all major tasks that require cooperation to achieve. If people are divided, they are unable to get important things done, and it’s on leaders to foster a sense of community rather than stoking feelings of fear or hate. 

With a health crisis, a social crisis, and global leadership crisis, this year has posed many great challenges to overcome, but people will remember the leaders and businesses that were present and actively engaged during this time. Stay up to date with the latest news and best practices on marketing, subscribe to MikMak’s Newsletter to receive weekly updates.

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