Situational Leadership Styles at Salesforce Essay

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Situational leadership is a style of leadership that is based on flexibility, where the leader has an adaptive style that changes depending on the situation. Blanchard and Hersey have developed the concept of situational leadership that the leader adapts the style to fit the development level of the followers being influenced (Anthony, 2018). Salesforce was named the number one company to work for in America, and its corporate culture has been described as unique. The CEO is Marc Benioff, one of the company's co-founder, who is co-CEO with Keith Block. Benioff was instrumental in defining the company's culture and its leadership style. This paper will examine leadership as Salesforce, through the lens of situational leadership.

Situational Leadership Styles

There are several different situational leadership styles, which the leader would apply to different followers and different situations as need be. The four main situational leadership styles are delegating, supporting, coaching and directing (Todorov, 2017). Individuals with a high commitment level but low competence are given the directing style. The degree of supportive and directive behaviors will change with the competence and commitment level of the employee. Salesforce is now ranked as the #1 company to work for, and has been highly successful in its relatively short existence, which indicates that its leadership probably has a fairly good grasp of situational leadership. Naturally, the senior leaders are not dealing too much with D1 and D2 people, but they must equip their managers to deal with those levels of employee.

For the most part, however, Salesforce employs the D3 and D4 situational leadership styles. Part of the business model that the company employs is to make sure that it is a an employer of choice, so that it can attract the top talent in its field. This helps the company to avoid the D1 type of employee altogether – the low competence and low commitment employee are simply selected out by employers that have their pick of talent. Occasionally, there are roles at the company that require hiring a D2 – entry level sales roles would be one that Salesforce would have. Even then, the company would quickly move on from anybody whose commitment does not shift upward.

Salesforce's ability to attract and retain top talent has put it in the position to be an innovation leader, and has built innovation throughout the entire company, right into the culture (Lashinsky, 2017).

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Innovation is typically the hallmark of companies that have highly talented people, that manage to harness that talent. This usually means D4 as the dominant situational leadership style, where managers identify talented employees and, after providing a little bit of direction, simply get out of their way.

However, it should be noted that D3 is an important situational leadership trait for companies that select for highly talented individuals. Those individuals might come to the company with variable commitment, but the ability of management to provide the needed supportive behavior is critical to shifting that commitment level. When an employee has variable commitment, but…

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…be quite powerful in their fields but have failed to foster the right workplace environment (Xerox, Sears, etc.). Efficiency is really promoted by attracting talented people; untalented people are never going to be that efficient, even with a lot of direction.

The big contingency is the type of business that the company is in. Salesforce relies heavily on innovation in order to succeed. But there are certainly a lot of companies that rely more on low-cost strategies, and these companies often feel that the inherently will hire low-skill workers. This does not mean that the D1 strategy is right; Costco has a low cost strategy but yet it employs a very different leadership style than companies like Wal-Mart, or Family Dollar, that also sell at low cost as their primary business model.

For tech companies, or any company that wishes to be not only efficient but innovative, it is important to focus on the types of leadership behaviors that are going to attract and retain the best talent. It can be tempting for a company when it gets larger to start to abandon this, but as Salesforce shows, being the largest company in the industry does not necessarily mean sacrificing culture, if that culture is integral to the success of the company.

All told, Salesforce is a model for a company that understands what it needs to compete, and has executed on that strategy well. Contrast this with companies that are performing poorly, and have low ratings. They cannot attract talent, and this….....

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Anthony, L. (2018) Define situational leadership. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

Comen, E., Stebbins, S. & Frohlich, T. (2016) 10 worst companies to work for. HuffPost. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

Fortune (2018) 100 Best companies to work for. Fortune. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

Lashinsky, A. (2017) How CEO Marc Benioff drives relentless forward thinking at Salesforce. Fortune. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

Todorov, A. (2017) 4 situational leadership styles. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

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