Great Leaders Face Criticism

November 8, 2016


Is Mark Zuckerberg a great leader?

There are differing opinions on the matter.

Mark’s letter to shareholders before the IPO is straight forward and enlightening. He definitely knows what he wants.

In his letter, he lays out exactly what Facebook is about: its mission, goals,and purpose. There should be no misunderstanding about Mark’s vision for Facebook when you read it.

Now that the $38 IPO stock price has tumbled to $18.96, investors are calling for Mark to be replaced. “He doesn’t have the leadership skills to lead the company”, they say.

My money is on Mark not giving into investors that want to focus on short term gain at the expense of long term investment in innovation, customers, and employees. This is the plight that most public CEO’s face – spreadsheet management. Sacrifice the future for the now. So good for Mark!

I’ve included a PDF of Mark’s letter to investors below because I believe it is an instructive view into how a great leader in the making communicates. It’s a little over 2000 words, but well worth it!

Letter to Shareholders

If you took the time to read it – you truly are a student of leadership!

How Do Great Leaders Face Criticism?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Ron Whitaker
Ron Whitaker
Ron is an accomplished entrepreneur involved in developing multiple businesses from the ground up. He is the co-founder of About Leaders, an author, a start-up consultant, and investor. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
  • Kirk Hallowell says:

    I have always thought that Mark has been a leader way over his head from early on. How and why would we expect a person with that limited experience to demonstrate the level of competence to run a multi-billion-dollar organization this early in life? His letter is well-meaning, sincere, and open – it also demonstrates a level of naivety and idealism (e.g., touting the “hacker” approach) that reflects his lack of business perspective. One thing I can say for sure, is that Mark can afford to be who he is, and the people who invested early in FB can take their own accountability for leadership in their investment decisions!

  • Ron Whitaker says:

    If Mark has the business acumen to build a multibillion dollar business, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. What one person thinks is naivety, another person thinks ideals and core principles worth sticking to whether others believe or not.

    The point is, Mark communicated very clearly his beliefs and Facebook’s goals, vision, and purpose – before investors invested in the company. Now some investors are crying foul because Mark will not bend to their way of thinking or running a company (spreadsheet management).

    Being a business consultant for 28 years, I’ve seen what spreadsheet mentality can do to public companies – selling their future to hit the numbers this quarter. The focus becomes about the numbers rather than the product, people, and customers.

    To his credit, this is what young Mark understands and, with his 57% of the voting stock, intends to prevent.

    I believe clear communication, core values, and strength in the face of adversity are core elements of leadership no matter what age you are.

  • Tim Cummuta says:

    I understand Mark’s vision. I am not sure his investors did. When you invest in an IPO you are interested primarily in a return on that investment (ROI), hopefully a huge return. Not being involved in any of this, I just do not see the value in Facebook, I do not know how this was all communicated to the investor public. Whether or not Mark believed from the start he wanted to something social is not really important. What the investors believed is the real issue. Most investors in IPOs are looking for a quick ROI. Not many are in it for the long haul. As soon as the weather changes, they want changes. I personally would not have expected Facebook to grow for a long time if ever as an investment.

    If Mark’s “make money to build services,” works it will take awhile. I did not invest in the IPO and would not invest in it now either. However, having said all of this, I think Mark should stick to his vision. I think if he changes to accommodate his investors there is little hope for the company’s future. His vision either works or it does not. But, it is obvious no one else has his vision for Facebook.

  • F. E. Starks says:

    Mark Zuckerberg has managed to sustain organizational growth through what many would consider insurmountable odds. It took a team to make Facebook happen; it will take a team to move the company to a more progressive level that includes steps to improve stock potential.
    We can count on finding Zuckerberg’s name on the list shared by others including Ford, Einstein and the like.
    Good read.

  • Tim Cummuta says:

    I am not sure I would equate Mark with Henry Ford or Einstein. I know a great many people both young and old who do not use Facebook. How many of them drive cars? Mark is a genius. But genius does not translate to profit. Profit is what drives a company forward and that is what rewards investors. While there are billions that use Facebook, how many are actually buying anything based on the products and services offered for money. During the Dot Com bust that was the primary problem. Many companies had great ideas but could not translate those ideas to actual net earnings. I am sure the company will continue to exist and do OK as a revenue generator. I am not sure it will become a great investment like Microsoft or Apple.

  • Ron Whitaker says:

    Really insightful comments!

    I agree the long term outlook for Facebook is questionable – unless Facebook figures out how to offer services the masses will pay for.

    An article I read a few weeks ago said Facebook will be a ghost of it former self in 5 years because web 3.0 will make it obsolete. Web 1.0 companies proved, most couldn’t move into web 2.0. So the thought is web 2.0 companies probably won’t be able to make the changes required to move into web.3.0.

    Although Amazon is a good example of a web 1.0 company that not only made it, but set the standard.

  • Mark Hampton says:

    Insightful article — I wonder how many of use would like to have Marks challenge nonetheless this is how leaders are defined and made by the challenges they face. Success is difficult to question and Mark has had more than his share of success. However, when share holders are involved success gets redfined. So, the verdict is not yet in because the case is still being litigated in public option. However, I’ll go with the visionary in tis case. He’s still in leadership development mode and I think he’ll simmer into a great leader!

    Fantastic article Ron……

    – Mark –

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