Marissa Mayer and What not to do as CEO

Marissa Mayer and What not to do as CEO
December 1, 2015 Linda Murray

Athena Coaching, CEO, Linda Murray

Marissa Mayer is an American software engineer and has been the CEO of Yahoo Inc. since 2012. In November 2015, it became apparent to those outside the company that not all those support her tenure, and some may be outright hostile.

Large media corporations have published articles such as ‘The Last Days of Marissa Mayer?’ and ‘Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Faces Morale Challenge’.

Brought in when the tech giant was already struggling, Mayer caused controversy from the beginning. She was pregnant when taking the position, becoming the first pregnant woman to be named the head of a Fortune 500 company. Criticism followed her when she only took two months maternity leave, and since then has often been criticised since for her business decisions.

It can be said that if a leader is not causing a controversy, then they’re not taking enough risks. Mayer has many supporters but also those who want her gone. Whatever side of the fence you choose to sit on, there’s a lot we can learn from examining her leadership choices.

  1. Take time to understand the situation. Some who criticise Mayer say that she didn’t take the time to understand entire situations before making crucial decisions. Staff who work the job or work in particular situations will have important insight and knowledge that upper management may miss.
  2. Build supporters in all areas of the company. There’s an old saying —“He who controls the army wins”. Many believe that Mayer has lost the support of staff across the company, making any support from her board almost irrelevant. In late November, media reported that many insiders had lost patience with Mayer and that the company was in the grip of a morale crisis.
  3. Nurture your business culture. Corporate culture can be a fragile thing, but it must be nurtured for your business to thrive. Support your team and they will in turn support you. It’s been said that Mayer, the highest paid female CEO, is overpaid and in turn not supporting those under her. Some believe that she focuses too much on her leadership, and not enough on those who keep the company running every day.
  4. Share your strategy and visions. In order for a business to grow effectively, it’s important that every staff member understands the company vision, and where you’re trying to head. Mayer’s detractors have said that her decisions have often felt like a series of independent mandates, without any cohesive strategy for the future. By sharing your vision with everyone you help them understand why you make certain decisions and can help you work towards it.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Some say that perhaps Mayer’s biggest failure is her inability to re-learn. Many leaders are skilled at challenging viewpoints of others, but fall down when it comes to critically examining their own beliefs and thinking. Have confidence in your decisions, but when push comes to shove don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and decide if you really believe you’re right or you’re just afraid to admit you might be wrong.

There’s no doubt, being a CEO is tough, and being one in the corporate environment and company position Mayer has faced is even tougher. By applying these leadership lessons, you can ensure your own business runs better. Talk to us at Athena Coaching about how we can help you put this learning into place through our Executive Coaching and Mentoring.

(Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Yahoo News)

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