3 CEOs on how technology has transformed leadership in the COVID era

December 2, 2020, 11:30 PM UTC

The seeds of transformation were already there; a pandemic just hastened the process—and forced corporate leaders to get creative with how they run their businesses.

That was the message from a trio of tech CEOs during a panel at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Tech conference on Wednesday. Increasing reliance on virtual communications combined with work-from-home culture may not be ideal, but it has yielded some surprising results along with a spirit of collaboration, according to Box CEO Aaron Levie.

“The [tech] CEOs have kind of come together, and we’ve been able to share best practices, learn from each other, get through the pandemic as we’re running our businesses,” he said. (Evidently, there’s a special Slack channel filled with Silicon Valley types hashing out ideas and picking one another’s brains.)

“I don’t think anybody that I know really enjoyed, you know, this experience,” said Levie. “But we’re making the most of it, making sure that we are continuing to build strong cultures, making sure that we continue to drive innovation in our software and products.”

Despite the inevitable cabin fever and logistical complexities, the digital workplace has its advantages. Levie believes that social media and communications technologies can actually streamline a business in some ways (as in not having that millionth in-person meeting). And that’s not the only advantage tech chiefs see in the current business environment.

“We’ve already hired executives during this pandemic,” said PagerDuty chief executive Jennifer Tejada. “We acquired a company, and I think that transaction went through faster than it normally would have.”

Ultimately, leadership is thinking about the well-being of your employees during a topsy-turvy time, according to Okta CEO Todd McKinnon, who spoke to the responsibility leaders have to listen to the concerns of their staff and make the proper adjustments.

“It’s kind of balancing your own vision and what you think is right with feedback on what other people think is relevant or appropriate,” he said.

As it turns out, tech leaders are learning to evolve during this languishing outbreak. And they’re doing it by taking a global tragedy and using it to implement fresh new business strategies, as shown by these three CEOs.

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