What one Facebook employee’s review of Mark Zuckerberg can teach all of us

In the end, the titular wizard in the Wizard of Oz is revealed as a man behind a curtain pulling some levers, not a magician but a trickster mechanic.

When it comes to the titans of the tech world, peering behind the curtain always reveals a more complicated picture than the pen sketches offered in profiles: Bill Gates was more than a sharp-programmer or ruthless corporate operator. Steve Jobs was a confusing mix of hippy ideals and hard-headedness.

Who is Zuckerberg?

Mark Zuckerberg has been put under the microscope more than any other tech leader of his generation. Who else has had a major Hollywood movie dedicated to creation myths around their company?

Having just turned 30, he’s led Facebook through over ten years of success and controversy but for a man whose business has chipped away at the traditional notions of privacy, we still know relatively little about him.

The Facebook story

Last week, Business Insider republished a Quora answer originally submitted by Amir Memon, an iOS software engineer at Facebook, which throws some light on how Zuckerberg is viewed inside the company.

Responding to a Glassdoor survey in 2013 that gave the CEO a 99% approval rating among employees – it’s dipped to 96% this year – Memon outlined why he personally thinks his ultimate boss is “awesome”. Of course this is just one employee’s view but let’s unpick it a little.

The first thing that the engineer highlights is the Facebook story:

[Zuckerberg] built this billion user and billion dollar company from his dorm room, overcame one obstacle after another, and assembled a company with the most talented employees in the world.

A sense of mission

What’s interesting here is how the stripped back, simplified origin story has stuck in the employee’s head. Having visited Facebook offices in three countries, it’s something I’ve noticed repeatedly: its people have a sense of mission.

The idea of “the mission” carries over into the second part of the answer. While plenty of commentators have questioned Zuckerberg’s aims and the way he has executed on them, Memon says:

He is dead-focused on making the world more open and connected. The guy doesn’t waver; all the investments in R&D and acquisition have been along those lines.

The lesson here: give your employees a sense of where you’re going, of what your decisions are building towards.  

Strong leader

The next two points complement each other – “heart” and “guts”.

Memon is inspired by his CEO because he sees him both as a good person (through his contributions to charity) and a brave business leader (through bold acquisitions such as the $19 billion Whatsapp deal). You shouldn’t overestimate the value of being seen as a good and honourable person by the people you work with.

That notion of Zuckerberg as a strong leader follows in Memon’s next two points – “wisdom” and “trust”.

He recognises that the CEO has made mistakes in the past but believes overall that he makes the right strategic moves. Having your team recognise that you’re human but believe you’ll make the correct calls is an ideal position and a hard one to achieve.

How we can improve

Memon notes that Zuckerberg’s character appeals to the people he works with:

He wears t-shirts and jeans, talks with humility and just seems generally very approachable. We like that.

While the Facebook boss’s clothes might still be up for debate – the flip flops really need to go – it’s impressive that he has maintained an impression of approachability to staff while leading a $100 billion business. How many boss’s have “open door” policies that are anything but?

As I said at the start, this is just the opinion of one Facebook employee among thousands but focusing on the qualities he highlights could help us all be better bosses, team members and, ultimately, people. You have to keep in mind what someone will find when they peek behind the curtain, beyond your public persona.