Matching 'outside game' to 'inside self'
Q: Facebook's young founder Mark Zuckerberg avoids press interviews, offers inscrutable answers at public forums and jealously guards his privacy--so much so that he is now the subject of an unflattering movie. Does Zuckerberg have to develop a better "outside game" to be an effective leader of his fast-growing company?
We all have aspects of ourselves that are private. Drawing a boundary around what is private and what is public is healthy behavior as long as the boundary isn't one that divides the core of who we are or splits our identity into public and private halves. Either one of these lessens the ability to be authentic.
The setting of appropriate boundaries between the internal self and external reality is a function of a healthy ego, and requires self knowledge, self differentiation and self management: all important elements of emotional intelligence. They form the foundation from which a leader can develop the capacity to read reality truthfully and to respond to it responsibly. The "outside game" must be congruent with the person inside or what we will see is superficiality, phoniness and manipulation. The external pressure to be the public embodiment of a company or a brand is great, and a leader can succumb to the belief that this is their identity, when it is not. There is shallowness to the persona of those leaders who try to be something they are not.
Our culture still tends to equate extroversion with leadership and introversion with followership. The former is perceived as active (good), and the latter as passive (bad). Much too frequently, a quiet demeanor and reflective deliberation are not seen as leadership behaviors; while verbal, outgoing, decisive action is. I find it irresponsible to attempt to coerce someone who is being authentic into an acceptable, conventional role or societal stereotype of leadership. Research by Warren Bennis demonstrates that there are a vast variety of personalities and behavioral styles among effective leaders, but the traits they all have in common despite these differences are the ability to manage attention, manage meaning, manage trust and manage self. These are far more legitimate measures of leadership effectiveness than public style or personality preferences.
CEOs can be the public face of their companies, and some are highly skilled in this role. In the case of Facebook, the founder (at least up until now) has not been well known. His name is now much more recognizable and we are hearing a lot about what others think of him, but we shouldn't confuse all of this with knowing him. We are witnessing what happens too often to quiet, reserved, introverted leaders--they become the objects of projection, subjective judgments and non-stop conjecture. The public's need for a human face to, and connection with, a company can be met in other ways and with others (i.e. marketing, advertising, public relationships, philanthropy, education, etc).
Facebook will grow as long as it fulfills a public need--and as long as its CEO remembers who he really is while maintaining a trustworthy, humane culture with standards of excellence, innovation and internal congruence. In combination, these are the qualities that will enable both the leader and the company to retain its identity, profitability and the public's trust. Zuckerberg's "outside game" will be rendered irrelevant if all of this can be accomplished.
Katherine Tyler Scott
October 6, 2010; 2:13 PM ET
Category: CEOs , Corporate leadership , Followership , Leadership development , Leadership personalities , Organizational Culture Save & Share:
Previous: Zuckerberg's expensive lesson | Next: Game is good, but sometimes you can win without it