Guest Author Blog by: Ekaterina Walter author of, "Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg."
When Mark Zuckerberg became the world's 29th richest man and the second youngest self-made billionaire in 2012 there were many people who didn't know whether to be impressed or incredulous. On the face of it 'Zuck' just doesn't seem like your typical business leader but he must be doing something right: you don't build a website with 1 billion users by accident.
If you think of any successful company CEO – Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Virgin's Richard Branson, TOMS' Blake Mycoskie, Zappo's Tony Hsieh, Dyson's James Dyson – the one thing that hits you about all of them is their passion.
Zuckerberg is passionate about connecting people: "A lot of founding principles of Facebook are that if people have access to more information and are more connected it will make the world better; people will have more understanding; more empathy. That's the guiding principle for me."
James Dyson is an engineer and industrial designer, but his passion is taking existing designs we all take for granted and re-imagining them, making them better. He is now worth $2.3 billion.
Passion gives you the perseverance to keep going, no matter what the obstacles. James Dyson created 5172 prototypes before he perfected the bagless vacuum cleaner.
Lesson here? Partner with and seek out people of passion. They are the ones who will conquer mountains, challenge status quo, and bring the most innovative solutions to the table.
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Facebook is more than just a product: it is a way of connecting socially that has changed people's lives. Zuckerberg's purpose is to make the world more open and transparent and to create connections between people. Great business leaders don't just sell products, they sell a new way of doing things: that is the purpose of their company.
When Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS, his mission wasn't to produce shoes, it was to help children in developing countries. This mission drove his product: the company has now donated millions of pairs of shoes to children in over 40 countries.
Everything that Facebook does, from the people it hires, to its customer service, to its working environment, to the way it rolls out new products, is driven by a sense of purpose that infuses the company at every level.
Lesson here? To truly succeed your company or your team has to understand the purpose of its existence, buy into it and live it every day.
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A leader can have vision, but the culture of a company is built on the employees. Facebook have a rigorous hiring procedure that selects not just the best for the job, but the right fit for the company's culture. The "Hacker Way" dominates at Facebook: the entrepreneurial, fast-paced, constantly innovating method of working that all employees sign up to.
Facebook's flat management structure means that employees are empowered to make changes and build their ideas. Employee Justin Rosenstein once described Facebook as the "[The] company that's doing with 60 engineers what teams of 600 can't pull off… There's a neat synthesis of top down strategy and bottom up product development at Facebook."
Lesson here? Find the right people, those who are passionate about your purpose and who are willing to do everything in their power to help you succeed. Then give those people freedom to make decisions and empower them to take risks.
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Just as simple, elegant product design has been the key to Apple's market dominance, Facebook has always strived to build "the best, simplest product that lets people share information as easily as they can." (Zuckerberg) They are constantly trying to streamline the sharing process, and this has driven their major innovations over the years.
Zuckerberg has always concentrated on his product first and worried about revenue second, even turning down Yahoo's $1 billion offer to buy his company in 2006 because he was so committed to bringing the product he envisioned to the people across the globe.
Lession here? The most successful companies focus on the product first and the revenue second.
One of Zuckerberg's key strengths as a leader is that he knows his limitations. Hiring Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer "has been central to our growth and success over the years," said Zuckerberg. Getting partnerships right, whether it is with investors, a management team, or vendors and suppliers, is crucial to any business.
Having the right partners around him means that Mark Zuckerberg is free to play to his strengths: his imagination, insight, and vision, leaving the task of business prosperity to Sandberg. It's a partnership that works.
Lesson here? No one is great at everything. Find the partners who believe in your mission and who compliment your skill sets.
As a leader, Mark Zuckerberg has built his vision into every aspect of his company: its working culture, the way it is constantly innovating, its partnerships and its acquisitions. He may not be a traditional leader but his unswerving belief in Facebook's mission and his long-term vision are critical to its success.
Ekaterina Walter is a social innovator at Intel. A recognized business and marketing thought leader, she is a speaker and a regular contributor to Mashable, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and other print and online publications. She is an author of "Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg".Walter has been featured in Forbes and BusinessReviewUSA and was named among 25 Women Who Rock Social Media in 2012. You can follow her on Twitter: @Ekaterina