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Mark Zuckerberg Leadership Theory

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By coincidence on May 14, 1984 the same year that Apple.inc released its revolutionary Mac computer, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born. It was clear to everyone close to him that Mark was special since his early years. Nowadays his name is written in history as the youngest billionaire or more common, the Facebook’s founder. At his 28th birthday, just 8 years after he conceived the idea of the Facebook he managed to ring the NASDAQ’s bell to signal the start of a trading day in Wall Street and at the same time to lead his company successfully in the trade market for the very first time. In 2012, Facebook’s market evaluation was $104 billion. A Mark’s quote was enclosed along with the Facebook’s registration statement: ‘’we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services’’ (Mark Zuckerberg, 2012) By the time that Facebook as a company got into the trade market Mark was considered as a very smart person who was studying in the Harvard University, a hacker, an inventor, eccentric, lonely, very focused to his tasks.

While he was struggling to be successful he gained a lot of experience through different situations occurred, therefore he was able to develop himself from a managerial as well as from a personal point of view. Nevertheless he acquired, developed and improved a variety of skills and traits that helped him manage the colossal firm called Facebook. There is one very important element though which forces a particular person to be successful; it is the personality of the person itself. ‘’Personality is the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual that are organized and relatively enduring and that influence his or her interactions with, and adaptations to, the intrapsychic, physical, and social environments’’ (Larsen & Buss, 2005, p. 4). It can be built from the influence of heredity, or early childhood experiences. No doubt, personality of a person can be change due to major life events and by the gradual maturing process and so on. Through the years a lot of scientists, sociologists and psychologists were working on various models and theories of leadership. Some of the theories were developed, others were abrogated and some new ones were discovered.

Some of them are the Great Man’s Theory (1900), the Trait Theory (30’s), the Behavioral Theory (40’s and 50’s), the Contingency Theory (60s and 70s), the Transformational Theory (80s up) etc. The 5 trait theory that it is an old one indeed is predating the scientific study of leadership and reaching back into antiquity, across several early civilizations (Bass, 1990; Zaccaro, in press). There are various and multiple examples to support this quote and they can be found in the Chinese, Italian, ancient Greek, Babylonian and Egyptian literature. Allport (1961) defined a trait as a “neuropsychic structure having the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide equivalent (meaningfully consistent) forms of adaptive and expressive behavior.” (p. 347) Personality traits which seems to be the most widely accepted way to classify personalities will be used in order to describe the personality of Mark Zuckerberg.

This model has been divided to five major dimensions: Surgency or Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism or Psychological adjustment, Conscientiousness, and Openness to experience. Surgency personality dimension includes leadership and extraversion traits such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive. Mark showed his strong surgency as he wants to be the person who leads the team and definitely did not want to be a subordinate. When he was asked to work for the Winklevoss brothers he never really accepted the inquiry to program the dating social network so called Harvard Connection. Mark demonstrated in numerous occasions his assertiveness and his energy; while he was building Facebook as much in the court when he was standing alone defending himself against the lawyers of his enemies and his ex-friends. Furthermore his talk ability and his communication skills are undisputed since he argued down a lot of persons while he was defending his concept idea around Facebook, although he impressed a lot of people with his presentation and persuasion skills.

Till recently when Mark was on a business trip in China –the only country in the world that Facebook is banned by federal law- he dazzled everyone when he started speaking Chinese fluently during his speech in Beijing. The hefty extraversion led Mark into successfulness, wealth and prosperity. Ricky Griffin and Gregory Moorhead (2010) argue that agreeableness refers to a person’s ability to get along with others. Agreeableness causes some people to be gentle, cooperative, forgiving, understanding and good-natured in their dealings with others. But it also results in others being irritable, short-tempered, uncooperative and generally antagonistic toward other people. It is said that Mark was not always an easy-going person, particularly during the period that he was programming the Facebook. Back then he was more of a manager because Facebook was his idea and not a leader as he developed himself later on.

There were many controversies all these years about his decisions how he treated his friends and his colleagues as well as how he was predisposing diverse issues regarding the improvement of the firm. Although afterward he became a true leader according to his colleagues he stood up and led his firm to the top. Neuroticism sometimes is reversed and called emotional stability includes traits like tense, moody, and anxious. Costa and McCrae (1992) suggest that ‘’the general tendency to experience negative affects such as fear, sadness, embarrassment, anger, guilt and disgust is the core of the neuroticism domain’’ (p.14). Watson and Tellegen (1985) define this domain of personality as negative emotionality, negative affectivity, or negative temperament. Although the broad trait of neuroticism/anxiety includes other negative emotions, such as depression, guilt, and hostility, and character traits such as low self-esteem, neuroticism and anxiety are virtually indistinguishable as traits. (Zuckerman, Joireman, Kraft & Kuhlman, 1999). Mark’s reactions in various situations occurred indicates that he does not have a decent emotional stability and he acts irrationally.

An example of that is that before he conceive the idea of Facebook he had a fight with his girlfriend and they broke up. He was so furious about it so he decided to write about her on his public blog and then he hacked all the houses of Harvard University because he wanted to create the FaceMash which was a software where it uses to compare students to what kind of farm animals which seemed unethical to the majority of students and the school board. Nevertheless that software was an important step to recognition since it made him famous among the students of Harvard. Conscientiousness includes traits like organized, thorough, and planning. Ricky Griffin and Gregory Moorhead (2010) suggested that conscientiousness refers to the number of goals on which a person focuses. People who focus on relativity few goals at one time are likely to be organized, systematic, careful, thorough, responsible and self-disciplined. The high degree of conscientiousness that Mark had led him to success. He was the one that he always wanted to put in extra effort and extra time. For example when he created the Face Mash he worked eight hours straight in the middle of the night.

In addition when he created Facebook he spent numerous hours, days, and weeks working on this project. Therefore when he conducted a team of programmers to help him make Facebook he guided them to work focused, carefully, responsibly and systematically just like him. Openness in experience reflects a person’s rigidity of beliefs and range of interests. People with high levels of openness are willing to listen to new ideas and to change their own ideas, beliefs and attitudes in response to new information. They also tend to have broad interests and to be curious, imaginative and creative. (Ricky Griffin, Gregory Moorhead, 2010) Mark was not always an easy-going person but he was willing to change his attitude and his way of thinking in different occasions. For example he was the creator of Facebook and obviously he had his own ideas and way of working but he changed a lot while he was working because he was influenced a lot by his colleagues. Facebook would never be possible if Mark was not open to new experiences.

There are many definitions considering leadership because a variety of psychologists and sociologists worked on this leadership theories project, thus there are multiple theories based on leadership. Some of them are remarkable such us: Leadership is the ability to evaluate and or forecast a long term plan or policy and influence the followers towards the achievement of the said strategy. Adeoye Mayowa: A Leadership Manager in Nigeria (2009), “A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. ‘Fail to honor people’ they fail to honor you.’ But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say, ‘We did this ourselves.'” (Lao Tzu, Chinese founder of Taoism, author, 6th Century BC) “Leadership (according to John Sculley) revolves around vision, ideas, direction, and has more to do with inspiring people as to direction and goals than with day-to-day implementation. A leader must be able to leverage more than his own capabilities. He must be capable of inspiring other people to do things without actually sitting on top of them with a checklist.”(Bennis, W. ‘On Becoming a Leader’ Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1989, p.139)

It is a fact that there are a lot of traits, abilities and styles and based on them a leader can be categorized in managerial concepts or managerial styles. Mark as every other leader has certain abilities, traits and a managerial style that differentiates him from every other leader and makes him loved or hated by his colleagues and subordinates. Ceci and Liker (1988) state that work-related knowledge and skills obtained as a result of experience are more important to job performance than cognitive ability or general intelligence. That is what makes Mark so special; when he was just a college boy when he invented Facebook he worked his own way up and gained his traits and abilities from on-work experiences individually or working with others therefore he developed a variety of skills for himself as well as he adapted a certain managerial style which was fit for his firm according to him. For Zuckerberg leadership as a concept is about generating focus. It is about to find the right people for the right job, stay focused all the time, dedicated, careful and stuck to the goals. From the way he doing things, it is said that Mark is more of a democratic style leader.

He does not really act like a dictator as he is open to take under consideration to others opinions and ideas. Someday an incident happened and the Facebook’s employees started to despise their leader until Mrs. Reed stepped in and showed the way to Mark, that since he has problems with handling his employees he should take lessons or seminars on leadership and human resources management. Nevertheless, Mark is one of the people-oriented types of leader. He asked for help from Sean Parker, who is a very talented man, the one who invented Napster although he was known about the controversies in his personal life with drinking problems, women and the law. Zuckerberg did not concern about his bad reputation but he wanted the talent of Sean Parker who is also described as a business artist. Parker did help Zuckerberg with a lot of things in order to achieve the success of Facebook with the talent which Parker has. Zuckerberg is a good leader that he leads Facebook to a greater and a more successful path. It is obvious that Mark implements a managerial theory in his firm which is the situational theory.

The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory was created by Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. The theory states that instead of using just one style, successful leaders should change their leadership styles based on the maturity of the people they’re leading and the details of the task. Using this theory, leaders should be able to place more or less emphasis on the task, and more or less emphasis on the relationships with the people they’re leading, depending on what’s needed to get the job done successfully. Therefore in every situation Mark was able to adapt his style in order to manipulate and determine the outcome of every problem. Besides that, Mark Zuckerberg is a perfect example of the path goal theory which was developed by Robert House. House (1996) suggests that the path-goal theory is a dyadic theory of supervision. It concerns relationships between formally appointed superiors and subordinates in their day-to-day functioning. It is concerned with how formally appointed superiors affect the motivation and satisfaction of subordinates.

It is a dyadic theory of supervision in that it does not address the effect of leaders on groups or work units, but rather the effects of superiors on subordinates. Consistent with the dominant leadership paradigm of the time, path-goal theory is primarily a theory of task and person oriented supervisory behavior. More common Mark have to provide followers with information, support and resources in order to help them achieve their goals. Furthermore Mark have to clarify the path to the employee’s goals and in this situation he can demonstrate multiple leadership styles depending always on the occasion. This can be achieved by being, participated, directive, and supportive and achievement oriented. Mark fits all criteria. Although the growth and prosperity of his firm was expected and continuous he managed to change his leadership style several style. First, after he created Facebook he acted as a directive leader and he was providing the necessary guidance and psychological support to his employees of his company in order to ensure the constant expansion. Afterwards when Mark was sure that his company was on the right track he could finally take a more supportive role.

He is a very good example of a participative leader nowadays that Facebook is finally sustainable and a hard-nosed leader is not required among the ranks of the firm. This can be proved by seeing Zuckerberg’s Facebook personal page where he is trying to inspire and attract self-motivated persons such us himself to join his firm. In addition, Zuckerberg as a leader have a place in the managerial grid theory (diagram 1 in appendixes) which demonstrates the relation between productivity and people. Mark shows extreme interest in both productivity and people because he is looking for good quality as well as for employee satisfaction. That would place him on a score of 9.9 in leadership grid theory. Moreover If Zuckerberg was judged based on the Leadership Continuum Theory (diagram 2 in appendixes) it would be visible that Mark falls somewhere around 6th defined trait. He has received a prodigious approval rate from his employees and they have said that they love working at Facebook reason being that what they say and think is considered and it matters to their leader.

Every decision taken at Facebook is a group decision. Zuckerberg has showcased a variety of traits –based on the trait theory- that makes him an effective leader. The trait theory of personality best explains the notion of emotional intelligence. Traits are underlying tendencies to behave in a consistent and distinctive style and they describe the frequency or intensity of a person’s feelings, thoughts or behaviors. (Nilanjan Sengupta, 2009) Some of Mark’s traits are: authority or dominance, passion or high energy, intelligence, focus, confidence, self-awareness, fearless, integrity, shared vision and actions, also he is empowering, collaborative, communicative and genuine. The outcome of this traits mixture shows that Mark Zuckerberg knows where he is going and have a strong stated mission to lead people on. He has strong focus and stays on course. He is very passionate for what he is doing.

He has stated that he lives, breathes, eats and sleeps for Facebook. He definitely believes in himself. He is honest and committed. People want to work for leaders and companies that truly care about their employees and the communities in which they operate. The want also to be part of the dream and feel that they are productive and important. Mark makes his colleagues feel emboldened and powerful. True leaders share their vision or strategy often with those around them so Mark does. Certainly he is not afraid to try new things and take risks and he knows about his strengths and his weaknesses as well as for his team. At this point, it can be said that Zuckerberg has emerged and evolved as an Employee Centered CEO, with a democratic style. He has come a long way to reach this point with bringing a lot of changes in him and to others around him. When it comes to personality traits, without any doubt his strongest trait would be his openness to experience and the willingness to always try something new.

To conclude, Mark Zuckerberg is considered to be my model since from very young age he managed to become popular and to provide to the world the best social network and the most accepted one. Besides that the leadership traits that Mark possess are very look alike with my personality elements or traits. His achievements are very hard to be achieved by someone in the forthcoming future. His way of leading though is the most important for me because it is very similar to my way of thinking and acting considering leadership and human resources management. Since in every single kind of business in the world the human factor is the most important one and plays the most significant role regarding production, sales, customer & employee satisfaction which are the fundamental elements for a firm in order to continue prosper and live, I believe that the democratic way of leading and the path-goal theory that motivates the employees is the best for a company.

Bibliography and references

Asserting the Definition of Personality, John D. Mayer (2007) P: The Online Newsletter for Personality Science, Issue 1, Spring 2007 Larsen, R. J., & Buss, D. M. (2005). Personality psychology: Domains of knowledge about human nature (2nd Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations, Ricky Griffin, Gregory Moorhead (2009) P: Cengage Learning, 9TH edition, ISBN0547167334, 9780547167336 Personality Trait Structure as a Human Universal, (Robert R. McCrae and Paul T. Costa, Jr. National Institute on Aging, May 1997 Business essentials, 9th edition,
Ronald J. Ebert Ricky W. Griffin, 2013 ISBN-13: 9780132664028 (taken from Scribd) Costa, P.T., Jr. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources Watson, D.. & Tellegen. A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of Mood. Psychological Bulletin. 98. 219-235. Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior edited by Mark R. Leary and Rick H. Hoyle, December 2013, ISBN: 9781462514892 Leader Traits and Attributes, Stephen J. Zaccaro, Cary Kemp, Paige Bader, (2004) Pattern and growth in personality, Allport, G. W. (1961), Beacon Press, New York The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications, Bernardo J. Carducci, John Wiley & Sons, Mar 9, 2009 Srivastava. R. (2014) Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors, retrieved (01-08-15) from http://psdlab.koregon.edu/bigfive.html Emotional Intelligence: Myth or reality, Nilanjan Sengupta, Jan 1, 2009, Excel Books India Path-Goal theory of leadership: lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory, Robert J. House, The Wharton School of Management. Vol. 7 No 3, 1996 Bennis, W. ‘On Becoming a Leader’ Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1989, p.139 Personality and Individual Differences, Zuckerman, Joireman, Kraft & Kuhlman Volume 26, Issue 3, 1 March 1999 Mark Zuckerberg: The Face Behind Facebook and Social Networking, Daniel Alef, Titans of Fortune Publishing, Oct 17, 2010 http://www.forbes.com/

-some of the facts used in the essay were taken from the movie Social Network (2010) Appendixes

Diagram 1 -The management grid- developed by Robert R. Blake & Jane Mouton (1964) Diagram 2 – The leadership continuum theory- developed by Tannenbaum & Schimdt (1973)

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