As the co-founder and CEO of the world’s most popular social media platform, Mark Zuckerberg is a household name.
For those who are interested in achieving even a fraction of Zuckerberg’s success, it’s essential to understand what separates him from other business owners.
This complete Mark Zuckerberg leadership style breakdown explains everything that makes his approach unique (and helps you follow in his footsteps).
Mark Zuckerberg is a self-made billionaire (his net worth currently sits at $44.5 billion) and a self-taught computer programmer.
He developed Facebook (originally dubbed “Facemash”) in 2004 in his dorm room at Harvard University with the help of Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin.
Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard University as a sophomore to dedicate all of his time and energy to Facebook. In 2005, the company — spearheaded by Zuckerberg — raised $12.7 million in venture capital.
The business eventually went public in 2012 and raised $16 billion, making it the most successful Internet IPO in history. The company purchased Instagram in the same year and then purchased WhatsApp and Oculus VR in 2014.
Mark Zuckerberg’s success as a business owner cannot be denied. However, he is not a universally beloved figure.
Zuckerberg has often been described as awkward and robotic. When actor Jesse Eisenberg portrayed him in the 2010 film “The Social Network,” he embodied these characteristics and came across as abrasive and, in some cases, downright unlikeable.
When Zuckerberg was questioned by members of the United States government on Capitol Hill, however, he showed different sides of his personality.
A description of the tech entrepreneur’s testimony, published by the UK news site Metro, portrayed him as “warm and even sincere” and “nostalgic.”
The reporter also picked up on his “workaholic” tendencies, his sense of humour, and his decision to sit on a cushion, presumably to appear taller, which highlights his potential feelings of insecurity.
The leadership style of Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly influenced by his personality traits. He is his own person and practices self-leadership for sure. How does this look in practice, though?
In the same way that Zuckerberg’s personality is a mix of various characteristics — serious and stoic, sincere and innovative — his leadership style also comprises many different approaches.
The following are some of the most noteworthy leadership styles Zuckerberg utilises to run his company:
Key characteristics of transformational leadership include:
Transformational leaders value collaboration. They encourage their employees to work together to drive the company’s vision forward and achieve specific goals.
Zuckerberg’s transformational leadership is demonstrated in various ways, from his passion and creativity to his appreciation for (and encouragement of) risk-tasking.
Laissez-faire leadership involves a more hands-off approach.
These leaders trust their employees. They believe that those they’ve hired can do their jobs without excessive handholding and micromanaging.
A laissez-faire leader also values creativity, and they encourage team members to use the resources at their disposal and think outside of the box to get things done.
In many ways, Mark Zuckerberg is a laissez-faire leader. He gives his employees a lot of freedom and doesn’t enforce arbitrary rules or guidelines.
Servant leadership focuses primarily on — you guessed it — service.
Servant leaders care about their employees and go above and beyond to make sure their needs are met. When employees are cared for, it’s easier for them to do their jobs well, maximise their productivity, and achieve their goals.
Another critical component of servant leadership is adaptability. Servant leaders understand that one approach doesn’t work for everyone, and they’re willing to adjust their strategy to meet others’ needs.
Zuckerberg’s utilisation of many different leadership styles aligns with this aspect of servant leadership.
Visionary leadership focuses on the future. These leaders have grand visions and big goals, and they aren’t afraid to take risks.
The word “visionary” absolutely describes Mark Zuckerberg and his leadership style. After all, he created something in 2004 that most people couldn’t even imagine.
He also continues to think of new ways for Facebook (and the other companies he owns) to adapt and become bigger and better.
Autocratic or authoritarian leadership involves one leader dictating the policies and procedures others must follow. They establish the team or company’s goals and outline the strategy others will take to achieve those goals.
After reading about these other leadership styles, the idea of Mark Zuckerberg autocratic leadership style might seem incongruous. After all, how can someone be an autocratic leader and a servant leader or a laissez-faire leader?
Zuckerberg is not a purely autocratic leader. However, he also seems to understand that there are times when one must take control to get things done.
For example, Zuckerberg assigns tasks to his team and establishes rules and policies for the company (or abolishes restrictions that he doesn’t deem necessary).
Zuckerberg balances the autocratic elements of his leadership style with other, more democratic strategies.
Democratic leadership is like transformational leadership. It welcomes input from others and encourages team participation. Democratic leadership gives everyone a voice and invites all team members to provide feedback or offer suggestions.
Zuckerberg has shown throughout his career that he isn’t afraid of feedback. He welcomes input from his employees and is willing to acknowledge his own shortcomings by hiring others — such as Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg — who possess personality traits that differ from his.
One of the most significant aspects of Zuckerberg’s leadership style is that it comprises multiple approaches.
What does this mean for you as a leader or manager? It means you can take the aspects of his leadership that resonate most with you and leave those that don’t apply to your business.
Here are some examples of how you can lead like Zuckerberg:
Passion is a critical component of many leadership styles, including transformational leadership and visionary leadership.
Zuckerberg has obviously found something about which he’s passionate, and it clearly drives him to make outstanding achievements and continually grow his company. All leaders can do the same, regardless of their industry or interests.
Zuckerberg’s career started in 2004, and he’s remained an engaged member of the business ever since. He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas for nearly two decades, nor has he stopped playing an active role in running the company.
Engaged leaders are influential leaders. They serve their employees, and they consistently look for new ways to expand and achieve new goals.
Another vital part of being an effective, engaged leader is consistently communicating with your team.
Many of Zuckerberg’s leadership styles — such as servant leadership, democratic leadership, and transformational leadership — rely on ongoing communication. He stays connected to his team, and he also listens to what his team members have to say.
While running Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has eliminated many of the traditional workplace hierarchies and arbitrary rules. He sets his own leadership trends.
He doesn’t require employees to stick to a strict dress code, nor does he enforce traditional barriers between himself and his team. In fact, his office walls are made of glass.
Even if you can’t replace the walls of your office, you can still look for ways to get rid of unnecessary hierarchies and create a more transparent, egalitarian workplace. This will help you to avoid creating a blame culture in your workplace.
Zuckerberg has certainly never seemed to be afraid of taking risks. From teaching himself to program to dropping out of Harvard to turning down an offer of a billion dollars from Yahoo, Zuckerberg doesn’t play it safe.
In addition to taking risks himself, Zuckerberg also believes in motivating and empowering his employees. He regularly encourages them to be creative, take risks, and try new things.
When you follow in his footsteps, you utilise essential principles of transformational leadership, servant leadership, and democratic leadership.
There’s no denying the financial success of Facebook over the years. Even when its stock market value dips, the company is still worth billions of dollars.
While Zuckerberg has grown a profitable company, his concerns extend beyond financial gain. He also cares about making incredible products and developing new solutions to old problems.
These are classic traits of transformational and visionary leadership and ones that all leaders can embody.
Zuckerberg naturally has made a lot of hiring decisions over the years, and many of them have been very intelligent choices. For example, when he hired Sheryl Sandberg as the company’s COO, he picked someone with a different personality from him.
Sandberg is an excellent executor and is great at taking his big ideas, breaking them down, and making sure they get done.
Having spent nearly 20 years in the spotlight, Zuckerberg has spoken frequently about leadership. The following are some of the most important messages he’s delivered:
“Move fast and break things. If you’re not breaking stuff, you’re moving too slow.”
This quote certainly speaks to Zuckerberg’s visionary leadership style and commitment to innovation.
“People don’t care about what you say, they care about what you build.”
Zuckerberg has shown that he values action over words throughout his career, and his passion certainly demonstrates his transformational approach to leadership.
“You don’t let people deter you. That’s how you do it.”
This simple response to a question about how he has accomplished so much is an example of the times when Zuckerberg slips into a more autocratic leadership style. He knows when to take control and do what needs to be done, even if others question his decision.
“You are better off trying something and having it not work and learning from that than not doing anything at all.”
This is another quote that highlights Zuckerberg’s visionary approach and dedication to trying new things as a leader and business owner.
What type of leadership style is Mark Zuckerberg known for? Several!
When you dive into Zuckerberg’s qualities as a leader, you’ll see that he embodies a combination of numerous approaches, including transformational leadership, autocratic leadership, and laissez-faire leadership.
It’s important that you learn them all because it’s not a one size fits all approach.
Looking to improve your own leadership skills? Please check out our ILM Online Course and our DISC Profiling Assessments. Both will help you to understand how you currently lead and the changes you need to make to be the best version of you.
If you need help developing any of these leadership strategies, MTD training offers a wide range of courses, including in-house and Online Management Training options.
Updated on: 6 April, 2023
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