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Is Zuckerberg Over His Head as CEO?

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(Techwriter10)
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Mark Zuckerberg famously started Facebook in his dorm room. He's a geek who got lucky and today he is the CEO of a major corporation. Judging from his actions over the last year or so, I'm wondering if he's really suited to this job. He has little tact when speaking publicly. Even when he tries to smooth things over as he did recently in an OpEd Guest column in the Sunday Washington Post, he came off as arrogant.

Every Geek is Not Executive Material

Every geek that makes it big is not suited to the business world. Some make the transition, but in many cases, it's not a smooth one. Look at Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They created Apple Computer in the 70s, a couple of geeks in the proverbial garage, but they struggled as executives as the company grew. Jobs left the company in the mid-80s and returned in the late 90s where as a more mature corporate steward he lead the company to success.

Look at Google

This is also not without precedent in more modern times. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who like Zuckerberg, came up with the idea for Google when they were students, recognized fairly early they needed the help of a seasoned executive to run the company. In 2001, just a few short years after they launched Google, they brought Eric Schmidt on board as CEO. They stepped into the background into lesser, but still important roles within the organization.

Is Zuckerberg the Man for the Job?

Zuckerberg doesn't seem prepared for a job of this immensity. Like Page and Brin (and Jobs), maybe it's time he stepped back, and put his company in the hands of a real business person because right now, Facebook is doing a great job of alienating its users. (It's worth noting that Apple faltered under the leadership of John Sculley, but returned to prominence after Jobs came back in the late 90s.)

Make no mistake, Facebook is still a very strong company with 100s of millions of users, but they are lead by a geek, rather than a business person, who doesn't seem to understand his role or how to move a company of this magnitude to the next level. It might be better for the company if he moved onto a new role, and let a real business leader take over for the next phase and be the face of the organization.

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AnthonyCohen
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I think he is the worst thing for the company, not only has he got no idea how to run a company but he comes off as a pompous #######! One sees a child with childlike tendencies that play out , I know all and I know best, kinda like a 16 year old.

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Techwriter10
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Hi Anthony:
That's my take too, but someone like this is probably unlikely to see his limitations and step aside. It's unfortunate because Facebook has grown into a huge organization. Their CEO, however doesn't seem to have grown into the job.

Thanks for the comment.
Ron

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Can you cite some examples? Where specifically has he faltered? What, specifically, would a "business person" do differently than he is doing? (Aside from not being a good public speaker)

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AnthonyCohen
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Firstly he has a credibility problem, as he settled out of court re the legal action taken on him for alleging that he "stole" the idea. So right away no one believes him.

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Techwriter10
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Specifically the way he has handled the entire privacy fiasco, which I've written about frequently both here and in other venues, and which I alluded to in the first paragraph.

His reaction in the Washington Post piece was to blame users for not being knowledgeable enough about his obtuse privacy controls. He says Facebook is about sharing, which it is, but we should control whom we share with, not Facebook and he doesn't seem to get that no matter how many times he hears it.

He misread and underestimated reaction to Facebook Beacon, and he has continually dismissed user concerns about how Facebook is using its data. A large organization like Facebook needs someone with tact who can smoothly and deftly deal with concerns and be a public face.

I realize you too are a young CEO and I'm not suggesting that nobody in their 20s can run a company. I would point to Aaron Levie at Box.net, the 25 year old CEO of Box.net, who similarly started the company in his dorm room. He seems to handle the job much more smoothly than Zuckerberg.

To answer the last part of your question, the person would present a competent public face, but more than that, they would if they are good at what they do understand the role of the organization in society. A company like Facebook is a more difficult company to manage because it is dealing intimate information about people's lives. A seasoned CEO wouldn't be a pancea for Facebook. Look at Google. They have made major gaffes over the years with Schmidt at the helm, but it does give a sense of seriousness, which Facebook is clearly lacking today.

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Techwriter10
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Firstly he has a credibility problem, as he settled out of court re the legal action taken on him for alleging that he "stole" the idea. So right away no one believes him.

That's a good point, Anthony. There was a lawsuit filed by ConnectU claiming he stole the code for Facebook, and there was an out of court settlement in 2008, but if he truly is a thief, it doesn't rule out that he could be a good executive. As you point, however, it does put his credibility into question and should a person with a significant credibility issue be running a company like Facebook?

Ron

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comradity
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The benefit of the doubt which has buoyed Zuckerberg to success is staggering. The press doesn't seem to check the numbers Facebook reports before reprinting them, claims the data supports that no one is leaving Facebook without providing the data, etc . . . . SNIP

Meanwhile the government isn't satisfied to let the market decide, Rep. Rick Boucher has published a draft of the Internet Privacy Policy which sanctions Facebook's policy to share personally identifiable information with "affiliates" on an opt-out basis. SNIP

Yikes. Not a company I would want to work for and not a market I would want to compete in.

Katherine Warman Kern
SNIP

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Techwriter10
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That's an interesting analysis Katherine. And you're right, just because Facebook says it, doesn't mean it's true. It's in their best interest to inflate their numbers.

I would say there are many in the market who don't understand the implications of what Facebook does with their information. In that context, I don't think Rep. Boucher's bill is at all unreasonable.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Ron

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Paulsonmax
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Zuckerberg doesn't seem prepared for a job of this immensity. Like Page and Brin (and Jobs), maybe it's time he stepped back, and put his company in the hands of a real business person because right now

Hi, Ron miller, good points,being a CEO is not a kid's game, it takes years of experience to become a jack welch or Steve jobs, if you cannot manage efficiently, it's better to bring an experienced professional to handle the job.

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Techwriter10
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Paulsonmax,

Thanks for your comment. As I said in a previous comment, some are suited to it more than others, but when your company reaches the size of Facebook, I think it's certainly better to bring an experienced pro on board as you suggest.

Thanks again for the comment.

Ron

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Techwriter10
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Zuckerberg reportedly was out of his element in an interview with All Things Digital tonight. Here's a great example of how he's not really CEO material.

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data-struction
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I don't think Zuckerberg's tact is his problem. Perhaps that might even be the quality that draws people in. Conversely, I think his inexperience might be the factor to question. As his company grows to massive lengths, he will have to delegate responsibility to an increasing number of staff. This will be a challenge. Presumably, Zuckerberg has been smart enough to hire other individuals under his wing to help in this matter, while still remaining the top dog.

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