With The Social Network hitting theatres this month, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been getting a lot of negative attention. The movie depicts Zuckerberg in an unfavorable light by revealing some unpleasant facts about him as a person. I could write this blog post about the many things he does poorly as a leader that is represented by all of this negative press, but instead, I am going to defend Zuckerberg’s leadership and show how he embodies many of the theories we have discussed in class in impressive ways.
The worst aspect of Zuckerberg that is portrayed in the movie is his betrayal of Facebook co-Founder and best friend, Eduardo Saverin. Zuckerberg strategically cuts Saverin out of the company and does so knowing that he would lose him as a friend in the process. DePree says people skills always precede professional skills and without understanding the cares, yearnings and struggles of people, one cannot intend to lead them (221). Zuckerberg clearly lacks appropriate interpersonal skills, but in my opinion, overcomes them with other important leadership qualities to lead Facebook in an effective and productive way.
Facebook is what it is today because of Mark Zuckerberg. His visionary leadership has made the company so important to the lives of all that use it. When creating Facebook, Zuckerberg had the idea that he wanted to create something that would change the way people live for the better by connecting them to each other. This construction of a vision is the first thing Sashkin says you must do in order to be a visionary leader. The second thing Sashkin says is putting the philosophy into practice. Zuckerberg has clearly done that by connecting over 500 million people all over the globe. The third aspect of Visionary Leadership according to Sashkin is personally creating and supporting your vision. Zuckerberg devotes his entire life to Facebook and has said in multiple interviews that the only thing he does outside of work is sleep.
Zuckerberg also represents a socialized charismatic leader. Choi defines this leader as someone who motivates his followers to maximize the gains of the organization without regard for his own personal needs (26). People may not believe this because Zuckerberg is currently the world’s youngest billionaire, but making money is not his primary concern. Zuckerberg is still involved with the day-to-day operations of Facebook and shows his followers how to unite their work to a larger sense of purpose (Choi, 27). His main goal is not to make money, but it is to have his employees provide a network for people all over the world to share and connect with each other. In an interview with Mike Harvey of The Sunday Times in London, Zuckerberg says that if his employees succeed in the company’s mission, the financial rewards will come. The mission always comes first.
Lastly, and I think most importantly to understand Mark Zuckerberg as a leader, is how he exemplifies Selznick’s idea of statesmanship. Zuckerberg has undeniably bonded his selfhood to the identity of his institution. The fate of Facebook is intertwined with Zuckerberg’s, and vice versa. For the rest of his life, Mark Zuckerberg will be remembered hand in hand with his company, and I think he would not want it any other way. And that to me is what makes him a great leader.