CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield sold Slack to Salesforce for a whopping $27.7 billion. That’s cool, but the events leading up to the acquisition, well, that’s where all the good stuff happened. And why does that matter? Because this is how you learn to be a versatile leader.

Everyone has a unique approach when it comes to… Leadership. Some are servant leaders, some are affiliative leaders, and some are versatile leaders, like Butterfield. Harvard Business Review recently described versatility as the “capacity to read and respond to change.” With two failed attempts at an online game, skepticism around Slack’s name, and a global pandemic this framework defines versatility.  

You don’t become a versatile leader overnight. It takes challenging work experiences, a wider range of skills, and a network of colleagues with different expertise to build out your leadership tool kit. With that in mind, let’s see how Butterfield transformed into a versatile leader.

What Makes Stewart Butterfield Special

Resilience: The story begins with Glitch, Butterfield’s second attempt at an online multiplayer game. When it became evident that Glitch’s time was coming to an end, Butterfield and his team saw promise in their internal communication software used to connect their cross-functional team. Thus, leading to the birth of Slack. Fun fact: Butterfield’s first venture was a game called Game Neverending. But just like Glitch, he had to pull the plug. However, that failure pivoted into another consumer app. To be specific, a photo-sharing service… ever heard of Flickr?

Vision: Believe it or not, Butterfield got some slack on Slack’s name (we meant to do that). While the app’s name is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge,” many people weren’t fans. However, part of Butterfield’s philosophy is trusting his “best instincts” even when it comes to naming conventions. By following his vision, Butterfield inspired rising startups to bring a bit of fun into their organizations. We don’t know about you, but we can’t imagine another name for Slack.  

Storytelling: Butterfield knows how to tell a damn good story. In 2013, just two weeks before the launch of Slack’s Preview Release, Butterfield sent a team-wide memo highlighting how Slack was much more than a product. It was a “real and large innovation.” Butterfield’s ability to eloquently weave ingenuity, compassion, and excitement with his word magic is something that only he can pull off. While he stands as a major tech giant, it’s apparent that Butterfield understands the most basic human desire: To matter and be known.

Quote of the Week

“One of our values is that you should be looking out for each other. Everyone should try to make the lives of everyone else who works here a little bit simpler. ” — Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack

Conversation Starters

  • Inclusiveness: US Judge Nicholas Garaufis has ordered the Trump administration to fully restore DACA. (Source: CBS News)
  • Influence: We thought we left bitcoin back in 2017...? (Source: Reuters Business)
  • Leadership: Former President Barack Obama knows a thing or two about common leadership mistakes. (Source: CNBC)
  • Social Media Management: It’s that time of year again, folks. Go ahead, share your Spotify Wrapped or whatever. (Source: Twitter)
  • Productivity: What started out as an innocent question has now become a gold mine for reviews on SaaS tools and products. Take a peek. (Source: Twitter)

Editor’s Corner

Question of the Week: “Usually my team is engaged, asking questions, and meeting deadlines. However, recently I’ve been noticing unmotivated behaviors and just low morale. It may be the holiday season around the corner, but how can I encourage my team during this time?” —Mansi, configuration analyst

Editor’s Recommendation: When it comes to productivity we've all had our ups and downs. There are days we can accomplish everything under the sun, and then we've all had days where we're just idling by our keyboard. Here's what I suggest: Clearly define the goal of the project. This way, they have a north star to follow. Throughout the duration of the project, set up one-on-one meetings, mini check-ins, and team sync-ups to ensure everyone is on the same page.

If you find that the deliverables aren't being met, I would personally reach out to your peers and ask if there are external variables that may be impacting them. In terms of morale, well, get into the holiday spirit. Plan a virtual holiday party, set up a Secret Santa, or create a pre-NYE happy hour. Ultimately, wait this out. It’s normal for people to check out during this time of year.

Now’s Your Turn

You can create and sell a multi-billion-dollar company too. All you have to do is ask for feedback. 👀

​>> Go to Matter​ <<

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