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Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Zuckerberg doesn't live his own company's story

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?

So long as Mark Zuckerberg does not do anything manifestly illegal or improper, his odd style will not derail his company--indeed, it obviously has not! His leadership partnership with Sheryl Sandberg, who was a leading figure during the rise of Google, is the best guarantor of continuing success.

But one aspect of the Zuckerberg tale is fascinating for students of leadership: leaders should have a story to tell and they should embody that story in their own lives. Zuckerberg's story is about the power of connections and about the limits of privacy. And yet from all reports, and from your question, we can infer that he does not embody his leadership story--in fact he contradicts it in his own style of living. I suspect that if Zuckerberg had broader leadership goals--beyond Facebook, say, and with reference to legislation--then his odd presentation of self might be an obstacle (as it eventually became for Howard Hughes).

By Howard Gardner

 |  October 4, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership , Leadership development Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: It's refreshing that Zuckerberg focuses on 'inside game' | Next: He'll figure it out

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