Leaders: How to Be a Successful CEO

Facebook and Apple

The Social Network movie gave a behind-the-scenes story on Mark Zuckerberg telling how he dropped out of Harvard while developing Facebook and has become one of the most famous, powerful, and youngest CEOs in the world.

How has he done this?

Leadership Lessons of Mark Zuckerberg and Steven Jobs

Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steven Jobs has generated many “spirited conversations” around “good leadership/bad leadership” and people have tried to pull leadership lessons and success stories from it.  I have shared many with my clients and colleagues.

What can we learn from these two very successful CEO’s?

Taken from ChiefExecuutive.net newsletter, Fast Company Magazine, Harvard Business Review, and a few of my own, here are lessons from two of the most famous and powerful CEO’s in the world.

1. Make your own evolution and development as a leader a top priority

Zuckerberg is one of the few CEOs in history to come to significant power without his personality fully formed. He was smart enough to take himself on as a project and proactively continues to grow and mold himself into the leader he aspires to be.

He began by studying and evaluating the successful people and companies around him; tapping them for insider lessons in leadership.

Jobs is all about employees engaging face to face. He had the Pixar and Apple buildings designed to promote unplanned encounters and collaborations.

If a building does not encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity

2. Be Open and allow for “true” communication

Facebook keeps their employees in the loop on where the company is going; especially in a fast-growing start up. This enhances confidence and unity.

3. Create a real office culture

Facebook’s is the Hacker Way and so it “questions assumptions, moves fast, takes risks, shares information, and learns from other smart people,” says FC.

4. Tolerate only “A” Players

Jobs passion for perfection and his desire to work with only the best is his way of preventing what he called “the bozo explosion”. This is when managers are so polite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around.

I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.

5. Bend reality

They both pushed people to do the impossible because they didn’t realize it was possible. They helped their people to not be afraid if they got their mind around it; using the “yes you can” my magic motto.

As a leader, your best move might be to step out of the way and let someone else take charge.

Put people and products before profit.

6. Involve everyone in hiring practices

When Facebook was growing, everyone helped to bring in new talent and all had interviewing duties, even engineers. After all your current employees will be the ones working with the new hires.

Jobs shares:

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that allowed you to make great products. But the products not the profits were the motivation.”

Zuckerberg’s  team approaches every hire with an eye on the future.

“The people we hired were capable of solving the problems we knew were coming.”

7. Practice Leadership

“Making decisions on the basis of incomplete, inconclusive, or contradictory information is a skill that managers at every level must master. The learning comes from making thousands of small choices and mistakes on the way there.” ~Marc Randolph; Co-Founder Netflix

  • Focus: Trust data and your gut.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That is true for companies and it is true for products.” ~steve Jobs

  • Simplify: Cut clutter and make it easy to use.

Jobs insisted on being able to get whatever he wanted in three clicks. He even got rid of the on/off button

  • When behind, Leapfrog.

The mark of a good leader is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but it also knows who to leapfrog when he finds himself behind.

  • Don’t be a slave to focus groups. 
  1. “Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them. As Henry Ford shared many years ago, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.’”

Caring deeply about what customers want is much different from consistently asking them what they want, it requires intuition and instinct about desires that have not yet formed.

  • Push for perfection. 

Hit the pause button and go back to the drawing board if it is not perfect. Then take responsibility end to end for the employee and the customer interface.

8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Zuckerberg says:

“So many businesses get worried about looking like they might make a mistake, they become afraid to take any risk. Companies are set up so that people judge each other on failure.”

  • Stay hungry; stay foolish.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” ~Apple’s Think Different commercial

Both of these men changed themselves and will continue to change the world. How will you? What can you do to become truly successful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

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Image Sources: techwench.com

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