A refreshing shift is underway. Social leadership emerges, and it has nothing to do with social media. After all, social media is just a communication channel and platform to use for a higher purpose. Corporate social leadership is about solving problems, broadening perspectives and responsibility, and igniting positive change within a business and the communities they work within. Several leaders are stepping up to being a new corporate social leader, and it is exciting to see this mindset develop.corporate social leader

Political leaders are failing on so many fronts. Too many are divisive. Too many are kicking the can down the road, leaving critical problems unsolved. Too many are too self-focused, more concerned about their own political survival than advancing a nation in which many can thrive. Political leaders are creating big societal gaps and, thankfully, business leaders are stepping up to close these gaps.

We need more corporate social leaders, however. The time is ripe for a new business leader activist to ignite positive change within their corporate cultures and extend out to the communities where their team members reside. After all, business is a positive force for change beyond the four walls of their building and cubicles.

Recently, two CEOs are showing how to be a corporate social leader activist. The first is AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, and the second is Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

Corporate Social Leader: Necessary Conversations

When you watch and listen to Randall Stephenson’s talk, you sense the authenticity and transparency. The conversation is real, honest and encourages others to do the same. Randall discusses race and Black Lives Matter in a way that makes a difference. One sentence that strikes a chord:

“Our communities are being destroyed by racial tension and we are too polite to talk about it even among our best friends.”

Many years ago, Shelby Steele wrote a book entitled “The Content of Our Character : A New Vision of Race In America.” One of the calls to action I remember from his book is that we cannot change race relationships until we can have honest, open conversations. Unfortunately, over 15 years later, we are still in this struggle, yet CEOs like Randall Stephenson are renewing the call to act. Randall stiffens the challenge for us:

“Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged. Do not tolerate each other. Move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other.”

Tolerance is for cowards. Powerful words to inspire action. We need to engage in conversations that increase our understanding of our co-workers, neighbors, and friends.

Real social business leaders can lead the way. We need more CEOs like Randall to raise their voices, set the example, and follow through from one speech. Social leader activism is not an event; it is a continuation of a call to change and act.

Take the time to watch and listen to the call to do better by Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO.

Corporate Social Leader: Triggering Connections

Another corporate social leader is Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com. He gets the leadership shift that is underway in businesses. In a WSJ interview, Marc made a key point about the role of business in social change today. Simply said, “Business is the greatest platform for change.” I agree.

Marc takes the Conscious Capitalism value of stakeholder value and emboldens it. Here is what Marc says about stakeholder value:

“In the 21st century, the most important thing is to focus on stakeholder value, not shareholder value. Your stakeholders are your employees, your customers, your partners, the environment, the communities that you serve, the homeless people in your cities where your offices are. You have a lot of stakeholders. And, as a CEO, if you manage your stakeholders and you focus on the success of all stakeholders, then everyone, including your shareholders – who certainly one of your stakeholders, will benefit.”

Marc’s words match his actions. Marc uses his business and personal platform to activate change within communities and other business leaders. To gain momentum in change initiatives, he is not shy about making connections with other CEOs and leaders, urging them to raise their voice, stand up, and lead change forward. A key is timeliness of action. Too many groups wait and see what happens. Marc does not wait. He engages quickly and uses his social media platform as well as his connections to other leaders.

Read through this article about Marc Benioff and his new social activism, and you see the rallying points of connection. It reads like a who’s who of business leaders and corporations. The new era of corporate social leaders combines a bully pulpit with real economic consequences. Potential and real actions reinforce words, a powerful combination to facilitate progressive change.

Other CEOs understand this shift. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan says, “Our jobs as CEOs now include driving what we think is right. It’s not exactly political activism, but it is action on issues beyond business.” Exactly the point of this emerging era of corporate social leader activism.

A key element in the new corporate social leader is connecting to other leaders with a call to act for positive change or prevent policies that create divisions rather than building toward a more inclusive future. The value of connections is high, especially when you call upon them and see a good turn in what happens next.

The Next Generation: A Call for Social Leader Activism

Conscious Capitalism talks about the 3 Ps – Profits, Planet, and People. I argue there are 4 Ps – Purpose, People, Profits, and Planet. Within the mindset shift to social leadership, the 4 Ps are wrapped in Problem Solving and Progress.

With the gaps widened and sustained by our political leaders, business leaders know the importance and value of social progress. To enliven the 4 Ps, the next generation of leaders will solve problems and ignite progress. Millennials will join in and lead this change, too.

Millennials want more. A point Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and a Salesforce director, drives home: Millennials “don’t want to focus just on making great technology, but also on making the world a better place.”

When our world improves, our workplaces improve. As workplaces improve, our families and neighborhoods get better.


When our world improves, our workplaces improve. As workplaces improve, our families and neighborhoods get better. A positive cycle gains momentum. This is the value of corporate social leader activism. To achieve this higher value, we need to lead actively across the 6 Ps:

  1. People
  2. Profits
  3. Planet
  4. Purpose
  5. Problem Solving
  6. Progress

Remember: Business is the greatest platform for change. Let’s activate our platform.

Are you ready to shift your mindset and actions to this new leadership activism standard? What changes will begin next for you?