Elevate 2024: Revolutionary Leadership – Lessons From CEOs
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Elevate 2024: Revolutionary Leadership – Lessons From CEOs

Takeaways from our leadership panel at Salesforce Ventures’ annual CEO summit.

Paul Drews
May 14, 2024

I recently had the honor of hosting a panel on leadership at Elevate—Salesforce Ventures’ annual CEO summit. Joining me on the panel were three distinguished chief executives: Denise Dresser, CEO of Slack; Marissa Mayer, former Yahoo! CEO and current CEO of Sunshine; and Oscar Munoz, former CEO of United Airlines. 

The panel touched on a host of topics, including AI’s influence on leaders and their decision making, the value of employee trust when running a startup, and leading with authenticity. In this blog post I’ll share a few insights that really stood out to me. To watch the panel in its entirety, check out the following video:

Editorial noteQuotes have been edited for clarity.

Leaders Seek Out Challenges and Learning Opportunities

Leaders love challenging environments and learning opportunities. The key is to maintain a growth mindset and not lose focus on what matters most: supporting the people and teams running the organization. 

“Being a CEO and leading a company is one of the richest design problems ever—actually designing products, businesses, teams, and culture. So I loved that learning experience.”

Marissa Mayer

AI is Making Leaders Act Faster and With More Intention

The pace of change and decision making is accelerating with AI. Founders must surround themselves with a trusted and energized team so they’re prepared to act quickly. Incorporating AI and automating workflows has meant companies are moving faster than ever before, which may prompt changes to team strategy and organization. 

“Now is just not the time to be tired. You need teams and people that realize this is not just a sprint for a quarter: this is going to take longevity and speed at a pace and duration we have not seen.”

Denise Dresser

Startup Boards Benefit From Diverse Thinking

It’s important for founders to include operational leaders on their boards of directors in addition to investors because operators are more connected to business performance. In addition, a startup board’s composition should not rely too heavily on one persona. 

“Operators are overall really helpful on boards. They understand some of the challenges you’re facing, and in a much more visceral way, because they’ve had to make some of those hard decisions.”

Marissa Mayer

Deal With Problems Head On and Maintain Employee Trust

Founders need to prioritize listening and learning, especially when it comes to problem solving and making big decisions that will affect the entire company. Talking directly with employees and elevating their voices will help them feel valued during transitions. 

“The fundamental thing that turned United around was the fact that the humans involved, all 100,000, felt like they were part of it.”

Oscar Munoz

Look Inward for Leadership Advice

Founders must be authentic and challenge themselves to build their own leadership approaches aligned with their values and strengths, rather than looking outward and emulating others’ styles. Trying to be someone you’re not will make a leader less effective. 

“The more intense the leadership role becomes, the more in touch with yourself and your gut and your moral compass you have to really be—and it’s hard.”

Denise Dresser

Help Your Teams Work Efficiently to Combat Information Overload

Founders must lead from the front and commit to continuously evaluating and evolving how their workforce operates to drive improvements in productivity. Leaders should leverage technology and incorporate AI in a way that empowers their people to focus on the most impactful parts of their jobs. 

“[We are] building ways for all of you who are customers and using Slack to actually quiet the noise, to use AI to summarize information and to predict the information you need … so you can find everything, communicate, and collaborate more easily.”

Denise Dresser


It’s a special opportunity to share the stage with CEOs who offer unique insights into such a wide array of topics. I hope the 100+ startup founders, CEOs, and enterprise executives at Elevate were able to take away some valuable insights.

Are you a founder building in the enterprise SaaS space? We’d love to talk! To get in touch, email me at paul@salesforceventures.com