Three Executives to Watch in 2014: Keeping an Eye on the Innovators

Lake Effects Blog

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lake Forest Graduate School of Management prepares you for a progressive career in Business.  Our faculty is comprised of innovative thought leaders in marketing, management and strategic development, while our curriculum is designed to give you more than a competitive edge.  At Lake Forest we are creating the business leaders of tomorrow.

When you are planning your career, do you model it after some of the success stories that inspire you?  Keeping up with some of the world’s most successful business leaders can do more than provide inspiration; it can also provide you with some guidance, ideas and strategy for developing your own business career.   The executives that have made it to the top in their field or market niche are not shy about sharing how they got there and the methodologies that they use.  Whether it pertains to their general activities, schools of thought or personal practice, successful executives are full of tips and valuable examples that you can incorporate into your career plan.

We learn by example and some of the best examples are from world class executives who position themselves as the disruptors of traditional limitations.   What is it that makes them so effective and what can we learn from them?   From that perspective we have created a list of three executives to watch in 2014.

1. Marc Benioff – Sales Force (Software)

For one reason or another, Sales Force CEO Marc Benioff is in the news frequently.  Typically it is the flamboyant and often over-the-top delivery of his speaking engagements which have won him the attention and a large audience and following.

Marc Benioff is one of the IT start-up success stories that people love to read about.  He began his concept of an integrated cloud computing platform that would “end all software” and disrupt the way that businesses collaborated both internally and externally with clients and customers. was launched in 1999 from his apartment and has rapidly grown to become one of Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 list for the fifth year in a row.

What to Watch For 

Most news reports of Mark Benioff are a commentary of his personality and casual demeanor.  There have been some significant changes at including a recent $2.5 billion dollar acquisition of ExactTarget, another automated marketing software provider.  The company has been focused on mergers and acquisitions but has failed to return a GAAP profit since 2011.  It will be interesting to see what 2014 holds for

What to Learn From 

Mark Benioff is a master of presentation and communication.  He is a confident speaker and an enigmatic and engaged thought leader in the IT sector.  Not every environment is conducive to the kind of candor that Benioff delivers in front of an audience, but explore some of his recent speeches on YouTube to get some tips on engaging an audience (and interesting footwear).

2. Gregory Maffei (Liberty Media)

Most business managers would love to have a portfolio like Gregory Maffei.  The executive was the former CFO and President of Oracle, CFO of Microsoft and he was the Chairman of Expedia.   The intrepid Maffei is presently a Director for Liberty Media, Live Nation, Electronic Arts, 360networks, and SiriusXM radio.  He was ranked as one of the Top 15 CEOs for 2013 by Bloomberg Technology.

What to Watch For

The Disney-Netflix deal created some stir while Netflix was in negotiation with Starz (a spin-off of Liberty Media).  Maffei has been vocal about the deal, and investors are eyeing the collaboration between Disney (who has opted to produce some Netflix original series) with some skepticism.

What to Learn From

Maffei has specialized and excelled in the digital communications and entertainment niche.  From that experience he was able to diversify his business opportunities within that sector to other major corporations.  Being a specialist can have an advantage by developing your business authority within a specific sector.   Specializing in your career can pay off.

3. Christine Day (Lululemon Athletica)

One of many female executives worth mentioning, Christine Day was the President of Starbucks (Asia Pacific Group) and then the Co-President of Starbucks Coffee International.  Day has been the CEO of Lululemon Athletica since 2011 and will step down from the brand in January of 2014.  The international athletic clothing brand almost quadrupled sales under Day’s leadership.

What to Watch For

The successful brand is going through substantial restructuring and leadership issues following the departure of Christine Day.  Citing ‘personal reasons’ for her departure before a CEO successor was found fueled speculation that  Lululemon Athletica may be in sales decline for the first time since 2011 due to quality assurance issues and brand positioning.

What to Learn From

During the course of her management of Lululemon Athletica, Christine Day enforced a strong brand culture within the organization and externally to customers who affiliated to the product personally as part of the health and wellness movement.  Day is an expert at creating consumer “buy in” for product culture and identity and selling it through all channels.

Who makes your list of innovative executives to watch in 2014?  Share your opinion with us by leaving a comment or share a link with us on YouTube.   What skills do you think are most important for effective business leadership?


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