CMI: Years after leading Facebook from the Spartan environs of his Harvard dorm to the pinnacle of the internet, the social network’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has at last opened up about one of the core philosophies behind his leadership style. As well as expressing an eagerness to choose candidates whose values are closely aligned with those of his firm, the 30-year-old billionaire revealed that he only employs executives who he would happily work for himself.
“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person,” he told the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. “It’s a pretty good test, and I think this rule has served me well.”
Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is one of the lucky few who have met with Zuckerberg’s requirements. Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg earned vast experience and accolades for her technology and humanitarian work as a Google executive, and before that served as the Chief of Staff to former United States Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers during the Clinton administration. Zuckerberg described Sandberg as someone he considers a mentor, and one who has been instrumental in building Facebook into a “healthy organisation”.
Sandberg’s role reflects the CEO’s underlying ethos of placing experienced personnel from other walks of life in key positions, while preserving loyalty to the recruiter’s brand. Tech rival Apple arguably did something similar with the hire of former Burberry chief exec Angela Ahrendts last May as its new head of retail and online sales. At Burberry, Ahrendts was the highest-earning CEO on the FTSE, having revamped the fashion brand in a bid to attract younger buyers. At Apple, her expertise and contacts within the fashion and retail realms are likely to be valuable for marketing the iWatch.
Another prime example would be Chinese search engine Baidu’s recruitment of long-time Microsoft exec Zhang Yaqin. He was a key member of the US corporation’s executive management committee advising on its China strategy – and as Baidu’s president for new business, Yaqin is expected to lead the firm’s research and development unit to challenge e-commerce giant Alibaba and Internet conglomerate Tencent.
Zuckerberg also had advice on how senior bosses should handle expansion strategies. Despite having a billion users around the world, the platform’s workforce is relatively small next to the small armies employed at Google and Amazon. Zuckerberg confirmed in his keynote speech that he has intentionally tried to keep his workforce trim.
“The most important thing is to keep your team as small as possible,” he stressed. “[Facebook] serves more than a billion people around the world, but our team has fewer than 10,000 people. It’s only possible because of modern technology. Big companies get bloated.”
An eventual Harvard dropout, Zuckerberg became the world’s most recognisable face of web-based technology – replacing Microsoft boss Bill Gates – when he became the youngest-ever self-made billionaire. His success inspired stylish biopic The Social Network, and helped to boost Silicon Valley’s reputation for innovative thinking. Despite the imposing scale of his achievements, Zuckerberg claims that the key is simply to “just have faith in yourself and trust yourself”. He added: “When you’re young, you hear that you don’t have experience to do things, that there are people that have more experience than you. I started Facebook when I was 19.
“Don’t discount yourself, no matter what you’re doing. Everyone has a unique perspective that they can bring to the world.”