Q: The ongoing privacy controversy at Facebook raises the familiar dilemma of what to do when fast-growing startups threaten to outgrow the management abilities of creative young founders. The Google guys got kudos for bringing in industry veteran Eric Schmidt as CEO, but things didn't work out as well when Pepsi's John Sculley took the reins from a young Steve Jobs at Apple. What's the leadership wisdom here?
Twenty-six-year-old Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has obviously been a skilled and creative leader during the entrepreneurial phase of his organization's development. Yet recent managerial missteps have raised concerns about his future leadership capacities. My issue is not with his age or business experience, per se. What I wonder is whether he possesses the team-building skills required to elicit the leadership qualities from his employees needed to run the business long-term.
For example, a good leader needs to not only provide a clear vision but also reevaluate it, considering whether it remains valid or needs modification along the way. To accomplish this, the leader needs to build a team that will provide the direct, honest feedback required; even when news is unpopular. Facebook could follow other startups like Google and Apple, hiring senior industry veterans to round out their workforce. Yet, I am not convinced that strategy would immediately solve Facebook's problems. The organizational culture must evolve as well.
It stands to reason, given the public outcry about privacy in the new software configuration, that some Facebook insiders might have worried about the changes as well. Yet clearly these worries were not surfaced or went unheeded. And if they weren't surfaced that's equally problematic.
How did Facebook -- or its leader -- become fixated on such a complex non-user-friendly solution as the only possibility? Like the organizational culture at NASA in the 1980s when managers overlooked potentially catastrophic flaws in the Challenger's O-ring design, has Zuckerberg's near-missionary zeal to create a networked world created a groupthink mentality, one that supersedes the transparency and open communication Facebook cites as its 'core value?' And has its brilliant co-founder been so seduced by his vision that he has forgotten the most important leadership lesson -- always question your own assumptions?
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