How You Can Lead a Company Like Jobs, Musk and Benioff


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By Paul Miller, CMO Americas at Xero

While Apple, Tesla and Salesforce don’t quite share identical industries, they do share one thing in common: they are all built on a strong founder-led culture. It’s a similarity that has led these tech behemoths to create products that have transformed markets, industries, and our lives. They show just how successful an organization can be if it’s built on a strong founder-led culture.

Here’s how you can take cues from Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Marc Benioff to build a mission-driven organization.

Mission-led from day dot

Leaders can’t fake their company’s mission. In his time at the helm of Apple, transformed the way the world consumed content and bought software. He clearly defined his mission — to combine technology with beautiful design — and executed it was an obsession visible in every product that left the company’s doors.

Musk’s mission to change the world’s consumption habits — in this case the use of finite resources — has created a hugely successful company. With Tesla, he’s built a global automotive company focused on weaning the world off its addiction to fossil fuels. He’s led his company on this vision from day one.

Benioff’s Salesforce exemplifies a mission-driven company — he launched with a cloud-focused mission and redefined corporate philanthropy with his “1/1/1” approach to giving back, and shows that organizations led this way grow into world beating entities. Not only this, Benioff has built an ecosystem that enables him to propel his philanthropic and business values forward.

To drive your own company’s growth, you’ve got to go beyond the sales cycles and day-to-day business operations and think about your why. It’s something that should be instilled in everything your company has done from day one.

It comes back to the ‘why’

Before Jobs came back on board at Apple, the company had lost its “why” —flailing without the strong leadership of its founder, and lacking clear purpose.

A company that isn’t founded on the why is just an ordinary business in a sea of many. A mission-driven company with strong operations and management stands out from the crowd.

At Xero, we have a solid foundation as a cloud accounting company with a strong purpose that we’re constantly iterating on: to help small businesses thrive. Our founders are still heavily involved in the company direction and management. Our purpose guides every part of our business operations including hiring, development and customer acquisition.

Our mission is our North Star, guiding us in the right direction and challenging us, which helps us produce beautiful work. A business with a true mission empowers those involved and gives them a reason to wake up in the morning.

Leaders like Musk, Jobs and Benioff that are passionate about changing the world are far more likely to create companies that disrupt the industries they’re involved in. They’re proof that a business which is driven by its mission is unstoppable.

This piece is brought to you by Xero, the cloud accounting software solution for your small business. With Xero, you can log in anytime, anywhere to get a real-time view of your cash flow and manage your books. Start your free 30-day trial today.

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