Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

Tapping a leader at the right time…

Posted on Posted in Culture, Technology

First, recruit great people. Second, use those people to build great products, which will in turn lead to bigger and better audience engagement. Third, turn that audience into revenue.
–Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer

I’ve joined the Marissa Mayer fan train since the Board at Yahoo! was smart enough to steal her away from Google. And yet it seems there are still jewels that spring forth about her personality and leadership style that keep me on the edge of my seat wondering what will come forward about Mayer next.

Yahoo! CEO Marissa MayerHer recent Vogue interview was accompanied by a wonderful photo of Mayer in a shocking blue Michael Kors dress. Critics fired off at Mayer for saying that pose wasn’t strongly feminist and that leaders of fortune 500 companies shouldn’t open themselves to objectification in such a fashion. Honestly if any male leader of a fortune 500 company was as comparably attractive as Mayer then I say why not be out there demonstrating that you can have “beauty” and smarts…really I think they were all just jealous that she could pull it off and then couldn’t. I mean no one made a stink when Virgin Group founder Richard Branson wore a dress after losing a bet–isn’t the idea of a man having to wear a dress as the down side of losing a bet demoralizing of women? Yeah, go ahead and talk about that.

In her short tenure at Yahoo! she has turned a sleeping giant into a nimble elephant. Weird you think? But Yahoo! was there, present, we knew it was there, folks kind payed it attention because it could just wake up at any moment and cause havoc. However, when Mayer took over the reins Yahoo! began turning on a dime to meet the real pace of market change and all of a sudden that giant was identified as the elephant in the room that everyone saw and danced around directly talking about–Mayer is making people talk about the elephant…the original giant before it feel asleep and turned into an unrecognizable mass.

“In the Marissa Mayer era, Yahoo is transforming its image as an out-of-touch ’90s relic, reworking its flagship web products — Yahoo.com, Yahoo News, Yahoo Mail and more — for the current decade” says Lauren Indvik of Mashable.com.

In February 2013 when Mayer ended Yahoo!’s work from home policy it seemed that she had done the craziest thing on Earth. Many companies are working to cut overhead by allowing employees to work from home and then reducing the size of the offices or just getting rid of actually office space all together. Here Mayer was saying that while that culture is great for some companies for a company looking to change and be in constant and direct contact with staffers working in-house would be the best way to get them back on track and well…really changing course all together. Months later is seems that Mayer’s gambled paid off and the perks staff members have while at work seem to balance any desire for working from home.

She has been good for the company. And someone how all those months ago someone saw a spark in Mayer that allowed them to say “she is ready, she is ready to lead and be a leader.” Well, that gamble seems to have been paying off thus far. But what is it? What is that thing someone in a power position sees in a person and says that the person is ready to lead? To get that gold executive room key.

Whatever it was Yahoo! tapped Marissa Mayer at the right time in her arc of leadership exploration and potential. I hope her run is long enough to see some truly systemic changes at Yahoo! and some real long term returns for investors and shareholders.

Mayer is the kind of leader everyone should be excited to work with: passionate, determined, considerate, directed, and creative–to name a few things. Let’s hope more of these fortune 500 company CEOs learn from her rather than chastising her.

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