Perspective On Zuckerberg

Quickly: Mark Zuckerberg's skills as a CEO are overrated.

Content: What can Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, teach other CEOs? Not very much. To date, he is a one-trick pony -- a leader who has expertly refined and polished one very, very big idea -- remaining unproven beyond the borders of that idea.

Zuckerberg's media profile vastly overshoots his abilities. David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect describes him as ". . . a natural CEO" and ". . . a visionary business leader." In the October issue of Vanity Fair, Zuckerberg is named No. 1 in the magazine’s power ranking of the New Establishment, just ahead of Steve Jobs, the leadership of Google, and Rupert Murdoch. The magazine declares him “Our new Caesar.” The movie The Social Network portrays him as the successor to Bill Gates.
Now Zuckerberg may eventually earn all of these accolades, but it hasn't happened yet. His one big idea hasn't morphed far from its original form. The great CEOs in technology navigate their companies through product change, brutal competitive threats, shifts in architecture, and highly fickle customers. We didn't declare Andy Grove a great CEO based on Intel's domination of the dynamic random access memory market. But when he survived a close brush with bankruptcy, pivoted the company into microprocessors, and teamed with Microsoft to dominate personal computers, we recognized what a great CEO he had become. Steve Jobs is not important because he had one creative moment. He is important because his creativity has yielded important products across three generations of customers and four unique generations of computing.
Zuckerberg appears to have the raw material to be a great CEO -- vision, technical knowledge, high IQ, creative thinking. But we won't know if he is or isn't until he creates a new popular product or morphs Facebook into a monetary engine that justifies its current irrational valuation. Eventually we'll find out if he's Jeff Bezos . . . or Jerry Yang.


With all due respect, this is

With all due respect, this is just more noise in the conversation about Zuckerberg, contributing as little as the film does to understanding the social changes his work is bringing about. Whereas most analyses of Zuckerberg are awed by his youth, you are simply saying he's too young to say how effective he will be. Of course, but that doesn't mean he's overrated; through no fault of his own, he's just being rated too soon.

I agree...

Zuckerberg cannot control what the press says about his overrated status as a CEO is not of his doing.

The facts are that Mark did

The facts are that Mark did not set out to build a business so on that alone he is a not a successful CEO. If and when FB ever turns into a real business and Mark has he ability to keep it afloat and grow it, then he'll be a CEO and a success. Until then he is a coder who got very, very lucky. He is not a businessman nor a CEO of any substance. He is like Justin Beiber, someone who has a long way to go to prove he is a true artist even if he is very successful.

Not a real business? $1bn+ in

Not a real business? $1bn+ in ad sales = real business. This comment is as clueless as original post.

I think profits are a better

I think profits are a better indicator than just revenue. Mark has mentioned that Facebook still runs at "around" break-even level ( .

Hopefully he can pull a Bezos and ramp up the profits after some time.

this is a dumb post

just not very logical. he's in his mid-twenties, what can you expect? he's a great CEO if his clients, his employees and his investors think so.

If his investors thought

If his investors thought that, they wouldn't have brought in other people to run the company.

His customers could care less. In another few years they'll move onto something else, just like they did with MySpace and other sites.

Did your mum/grandparents

Did your mum/grandparents ever use myspace? Mine didn't. They aren't going anywhere.

An intriguing thought...

So you are saying that if a CEO's employees, investors, and customers think that he's great, he is. Yes, he may be for the moment, but businesses last for years -- and it will be over those years that the leader's performance will ultimately be judged.

No kidding. We all know this.

Facebook was taking a turn for the worst when all the "kids" were cleared out a few years ago and heavy hitters brought in. Mark Zuckerberg "invented" an idea that already existed. It was smart but it wasn't new or novel. Then, he couldn't run it so grown ups had to come in.

Nobody thinks he is successful alone, including his "friends" in the business.

George, I couldn't have said


I couldn't have said it better myself--and believe me, I've tried:

Thanks for writing this--now just don't hire any more analysts who inflate the company for no reason.


"-- vision, technical

"-- vision, technical knowledge, high IQ, creative thinking"

Is it a mistake that you don't mention that he is in the position to do so as well? Why would that be taken for granted? He was in the right place at the right time with Facebook. And now he has nothing but the resources required to actually execute any "vision" he may have.

Wow, look at all you

Wow, look at all you haters.

You have set up the ultimate straw man argument in the world. In YOUR view, there is ONLY one definition of being a "great CEO." And by YOUR definition of a "great CEO"(which almost seems to require the CEO to be of a certain age) Zuck does not fit in.

Why don't you judge him on what he's done? Please name me founders and CEOs in their 20s running billion dollar operations.


He runs a $1B+ organically grown business that has a great competitive advantage (all my photos are there, as are all my family's b-dates). He did something that MySpace failed at, AOL wished it could have done, Yahoo completely missed, Google tries to copy, and the list could go on.

G, I would like to remind you that he has navigated threats quite well. FB has taken the twitter-like feed and expanded on it. Foursquare looks like a v0.1, and the ability to stay linked to friends while surfing WSJ and other sites is simply brilliant.

Looking back in time to see when we have witnessed a 'Great CEO' is not that hard as history is written by the victors. We (analysts) are here to look at mile markers and assess the strengths and weaknesses of our business leaders as they pass them. Right now, given the info, I would say that Zuck has/will define a space that is increasing in it's importance to me and my children and that it will lead to positive outcomes for a very large number of individuals. That's a great CEO.

remember when Obama was

remember when Obama was elected president and he went to talk at some college in Texas and they refused to give him an honorary degree because he didn't earn it yet? I mean he did just win a national election.. but whatever.

Is Zuckerberg the best CEO in the world? Probably not. But as long as he's the guy who built facebook he might just be good enough. If Mark is a one trick pony that can *only* build a billion dollar company then that's a pretty awesome trick.

Not Texas.

Please note that was Arizona State:

wow - "To date, he is a

wow - "To date, he is a one-trick pony -- a leader who has expertly refined and polished one very, very big idea " - shows such a thorough lack of understanding of the space. If you cannot understand the business and technical skills necessary to grow FB from a college network to a universal one, to conceive and implement the newsfeed, the FB platform for games and applications, the number of savvy acquisitions, the large number of extremely smart hires, surviving and thriving in one of the most competitive business spaces in the world, then you are probably not the right person to comment on Zuckerberg's capabilities as a CEO or position in the tech industry.

You nailed it. This is a

You nailed it. This is a very, very low quality commentary. I expected better out of a Forrester person. Anyone who knows a pinch about this space would be able to appreciate the gigantic effort required to scale a ship like FB without sinking.

If you really believe

If you really believe Zuckerberg was the person behind all that you really are clueless.

who do you think was "behind

who do you think was "behind this" if not the CEO and founder of a relatively small company?? assuming you are just another internet troll, how do you even know who was "behind this". a one sentence rebuttals just goes to show that that's probably as much as you know.

and don't come up with a lame answer that it was the developer that pushed the code. even that developer needs someone to set the product direction, someone to discuss architecture and design with, and to review the work before pushing something to be used by fickle millions including mindless trolls like you.

I think you missed the interesting story

Anyone thinking "great CEO" has possibly overplayed their hand (boring). Wanna bet there are no "great CEO's" that would drop what they are doing to play Mark's hand? Better yet, who might these be and what might they do differently or the same?

How will the hand be played?

You raise a very cool thought: If you replaced Zuckerberg with a proven "great" CEO, would that person do a better job with Facebook over the next five years than Zuckerberg? I actually think that Zuckerberg, due to his innate grasp of the space, would have a better chance of driving Facebook forward than a proven hired gun. That CEO might have been successful in enterprise software, or network equipment -- but the context of social networks is unique and fluid -- lowering the new CEO's chances of success.

Needs more analysis.

This post is more appropriate on a facebook notes page not on a forrester blog. It sounds of gripe and hardly has any facts to back up. To have grown Facebook to this level largely on his own shows that he has the stuff. He's 26 dude, give him a break. Steve, Andy etc are twice the age this guy is. To take Google head on and to bring this much traction is a large sell. He's not the perfect CEO but have you seen the maturity he has gone through in the last few years?

I'm really disappointed that for a research oriented company, this post was backed by no facts.

What have you ever done?

The guy created Facebook!!!! What have you ever done?

Wish All of 2.0 Would Go Away

Just reading these comments reminds me of how annoying the tech crowd is. God forbid someone criticize one of their people. So childish. Honestly, you are supposed to be adults, and possibly, men. It's embarrassing for the industry to watch you people. In fact, you're a bit of the laughing stock in the industry.

Different Values

Is it so hard to think that a young CEO can't be good at what his accomplished because he is not driven by money and profits, like the old greedy masters.


Wow, someone actually questions the profit idea! High profits are only valuable if you want to sell the company. I suspect FB's profits are actually higher than reported; we all know about creative accounting. Zuckerberg is signing a lot of paychecks, making a lot of lives more comfortable (just as GFC is doing).

I do somewhat agree with George's assessment of Zuckerberg though. He has not yet faced a major shift in focus as Intel had to do. There are two ways to accomplish that: 1) change the company exec mindset; 2) find new execs who CAN turn the company around (the IBM philosophy). The first is not always easy unless they were chosen with that in mind. The second is harder because it can look much like failure. It takes a big CEO to recognize that he's not the one to do it and step aside.

When that challenge eventually comes (and it will), Zuckerberg will be a good CEO if he figures out which option is best for his company.

No surprise here. Zuckerberg

No surprise here. Zuckerberg is the kind of Founding CEO who has the passion and obsessive drive to propel the product to market successfully. To maintain and grow a mature organization is a greater challenge that calls for experience as a leader- which he does not have. Historically, these companies have a founder that takes the product to market then hands the baton to a more experienced leader for growth and longevity. I would fully expect to see that here. While Facebook is the flavor of the day, that is never an enduring state for any tech firm. They'll need solid management to hold a position in the market and grow over time while market conditions and consumer behaviors change.

A possible model...

A way forward could be teaming Zuckerberg with an operating executive with experience. This worked well in the early days of Microsoft (Jon Shirley was COO and president), and it is still working at Google.

Exactly. Great analogy.

Exactly. Great analogy. Gates gained a lot of great experience by surrounding himself with some very seasoned execs. So did Jobs - which shows it doesn't always work as planned, but don't think Steve didn't learn some great lessons along the way!

My point was that MZ may be a great early-stage CEO. A lot of guys like that don't stay attached to what they launch, moving on as serial entrepreneurs. There's no question that guy knows how to grab opportunity and run with it.

Facebook has a COO

This isn't just a possible model. It's a model already in practice. Sheryl Sandberg (6 years at Google, on the boards of Starbucks and Disney) has been Facebook COO for nearly three years. It's a surprising you chose to write this post without more fully understanding the subject and circumstances.

Yes, I can see that she is

Yes, I can see that she is highly qualified as a former aerobics instructor and someone that Zuckerberg found to be impressive in meeting at a holiday party. I see his sister is head of Marketing now.

As VC's take greater control, they will install execs with a tad more operational experience.

How can you say Facebook has

How can you say Facebook has not evolved from what it originally was?


I enjoy FB - saw the movie - and do not think Zuckerberg is the next BIG CEO. The FB concept is wonderful; however, with the passage of time, new apps, new connections - there does not appear to be any planning from the "C" level that drives innovation, controls random acts of hacking, and is consistently adding value to a grea idea.

Watching the movie and reading about Zuckerberg - the one take-away I have is that the desire to be "accepted" is an often over-looked driving force behind innovation.