There are lessons from Marissa Mayer’s rise that leaders, business owners and other executives, especially women, can take with them as they attempt to continue up the corporate ladder or build their own businesses.
Fighting confidently against the ebbs and flows of life, Marissa Mayer, the famous American technology executive and ex-CEO of Yahoo, is a telling tale of inspiration .
Her struggles to turnaround Yahoo teaches a few lessons to other CEOs.
Marissa Mayer came to Stanford expecting to major in pre-med. She left with an undergraduate degree in symbolic systems, a master’s in computer science, and the Centennial Award for excellence in graduate teaching .
Marissa Mayer was employee number 20 at Google and in 2012 was named CEO of Yahoo, becoming one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley.
ImportantMarissa Mayer indeed embodies the spirit of womanhood and female entrepreneurship for many women. Her life, if scrutinized properly, reveals how nothing – absolutely nothing – is impossible if fine-tuned with passion, will, hard work, and diligence.
Marissa Mayer has power and influence, and when she talks, she has an engaged audience.
Whether or not you agree with the choices that the CEO of Yahoo has made while at the helm, there are several leadership lessons that you can learn from her.
One-size Doesn't Fit All
Being successful at a successful company isn’t the same as being successful at an unsuccessful company. It’s even more difficult to change when the company has been struggling like Yahoo.
You can’t apply what worked at one company and apply the same rules to another and expect them to work.
ImportantMarissa Mayer was working at Google which was successful on successful product lines. She is great at executing but at Yahoo it wasn’t about implementing an existing strategy but instead rebuilding the whole vision and strategy of the company.
It’s really, really hard to change a company culture.
WarningWhen you work at a successful company for a long time, you believe you can do just about anything. And you develop a strong belief that no matter what situation you are dropped into, you will come out victorious.
During her tenure Marissa Mayer performed well, but unfortunately, her approach was pointed in the wrong direction.
When you set the strategy to be a Media company and acquire Tumblr because you believe it’s a “mobile” company you are executing in the wrong direction. She spent nearly $2B total on acquisitions, so she certainly had the ammunition necessary to turn things around, but they were just headed in the wrong direction.
A failed strategy well executed still fails.
Boldness Be My Friend
Because you have never done something before doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be good at it. Choose yourself by throwing your hat in the ring . You’ll never know if you can do something unless you try. So try.
ImportantMarissa Mayer was only 37 years old when she was selected to be the president and CEO of Yahoo. Many doubted her capabilities because they didn’t believe that she had the leadership experience to lead Yahoo.
Great leaders are bold, doing things they have never done before – blazing new trails, charting their own path.
Taking the top job at Yahoo! shows that she is willing to take a risk, even if it might be more of a risk to her reputation than to her financial situation at this point.
It was tough for women leaders to break the glass ceiling, which Marissa was able to do with her grit and humility.
Some of the performance review systems which were introduced by Marissa were heavily criticized. But in spite of the widespread speculation and criticism, Marissa Mayer never got rattled by the media glare and did not allow the outside world to hinder her passion, choices, and decisions.
You have to persevere on your path of reform, adjusting regularly as new data comes to be known, and shut out the noise and focus on the core of the plan.
Nurture The Culture
Culture is paramount to any company. A successful company is only as good as the people who work for it and employees are only as successful as the company lets them be.
Marissa Mayer was central to creating Google’s strong entrepreneurial and open culture, which the company places a very public focus on.
A leader is only as effective as her employees’ willingness to follow. Employees will support a CEO who has their best interests at heart and turn on one who doesn’t.
Leaders can choose the action, but they can’t control the reaction.
ImportantA company is more of a democracy than is commonly assumed. Companies are powerful, but people are reciprocal . In large numbers, they are powerful in areas where the leadership has little control.
The accolades that come with being a high-profile CEO often make that executive believe she or he can rewrite the rules of human nature.
WarningAssuming a company is populated by smart and professional people who are held accountable for their performance, it’s better to let them decide on a given day where they can best get their work done.
Assuming Yahoo could have been saved by all the employees pulling the sails in unison, Marissa Mayer made some strategic errors.
Somewhere along the way, Marissa Mayer lost the backing of her crew, suffering executive defections and serious declines in employee engagement.
Once the mutiny began, the ship was adrift.
Stick To Your Decisions
Not everyone will agree with your decisions: There is no way that a leader can please everyone, so great leaders make decisions, stick to them , then deal with any fallout.
Marissa Mayer recognized that great leaders need a thick skin and that they have to do what they deem to be “right” instead of solely focusing on their public image.
ImportantAlthough she was aware of some of the things that were being said about her, Marissa Mayer stuck to her convictions, and did not spend a lot of time listening to all the chatter . And interestingly enough, the majority of employees did not have a problem with the ban.
There’s a difference between information you would like to have before you make a decision and information you need to have to make that decision.
WarningWhen you get to the point that new information might make your decision better informed but wouldn’t actually make you change your mind, it’s time to stop debating and make the decision.
Marissa Mayer, who has been the target of a good deal of criticism since becoming Yahoo’s CEO, advises business people to listen — even if it’s painful.
The question is how to know if the criticism is 1% true or 100% true. You have to have a way of cutting through all that noise to what’s a valid criticism that needs to be acted on and what isn’t.
You Can't Do It Alone
You must have a powerful vision and communicate it widely: Employees have to understand the company’s vision if you want them to commit to it.
Many viewed Yahoo as a sinking ship while Marissa Mayer viewed it as a challenge worth addressing. She had a vision for the company, wanting to return it to its former status of technology innovator.
Marissa Mayer created her list of priorities for her vision, then articulated it to employees, so everyone could work toward the common vision.
ImportantBy creating a powerful vision, she also created an environment that nurtures innovation and fosters productivity . Additionally, she holds a meeting on Fridays where she answers all questions that employees have, which gives her a platform to communicate her vision.
The CEO can’t do it alone — it’s the whole team.
WarningMarissa Mayer found a Yahoo with many issues and much legacy business in trouble. Turnarounds require a lot of cooperation , but clearly not everyone at Yahoo agreed on direction.
Great leaders know that they cannot succeed alone, so they need a group of trusted advisors.
Marissa Mayer has a network of experts from a variety of disciplines who she frequently calls on for advice. This has served her very well, allowing her to make bold moves to turn around Yahoo.
Though Marissa has been strongly criticized in the past for her rock star image, her hard work, leadership skills, and new programmes are a legacy . By acting on leadership lessons from Marissa Mayer, any aspiring leader can learn what it takes to become a better leader.
Great motivational skills and keeping herself down-to-earth and accessible have helped her carve a name for herself.
We’re left to speculate what might have become of the company if she had led in a way that maintained the loyalty of those on board for long enough to give Yahoo better odds of sailing through the storm.
Bottom line using prior CEO failures as lessons learned have to be used cautiously as predictors for the future CEO.
WarningLeaders of companies the likes of Facebook or Google are faced with unbelievably unique challenges and cutting & pasting prior CEO mistakes certainly will not be the answer .
ImportantMarissa Mayer made sure that after her resignation, she had ample financial investments to safeguard her independence and future . Even now, she actively invests in technology companies, startups, and small-scale businesses.
Her saga is not over yet, and it will be interesting to see her growth in the future.
A similar success story of a woman driven by purpose and failures is the famous Sara Blakely: Sara Blakely – Failure driven billionaire. If you enjoyed the article or have any comments, recommendations, or tips for improvement please do comment below.
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