Is this the end for Mark Zuckerberg?

Is this the end for Mark Zuckerberg?

THE CEO HAS changed.

That’s no longer a secret. For the first time in history, chief executives and business leaders are virtually expected to be in the public eye, communicating with the customer and offering opinions on social and political issues.

This can have commercial benefits. People buy from other people: therefore if organisations leverage the power of their CEO to give the company a human face, that can translate to greater engagement and greater sales. It also benefits companies when a crisis strikes. The public are more likely to give a fair hearing to someone they ‘know’. If a chief executive has taken the time to establish a relationship with their customers and shown themselves to be decent and honest, those customers won’t jump to conclusions in the event of a scandal.

But the changing role of the CEO has also had a seismic effect on individual business cultures and brand reputations. For example, you can’t think of Apple or Tesla and SpaceX without thinking immediately of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, whose personalities are closely tied with their creations. Steve Jobs, with his counter-cultural, hippie background and love of computers, could only have made Apple, still a symbol of creativity and rebelliousness in tech, while Elon Musk’s limitless ambition could only be reflected in his futuristic cars and space rockets. Since Steve Jobs’ death, it has been one of Tim Cook’s main aims to impose his own personality on Apple.

You could also mention Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is Facebook and Facebook is Zuckerberg, But recent events have made the position of the world’s most untouchable boss suddenly seem uncertain. Fake news, falling stock and glaring data breaches have damaged his brand. There was Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook, who admitted the site was made to exploit human vulnerabilities. And there was Chamath Palihapitiya, a former executive, who said Facebook is ‘ripping society apart’. #DeleteFacebook has trended on Twitter.

Scott Stringer, an investor with a $1 billion (£712 million) stake in Facebook, said this week that Mark Zuckerberg should step down as chairman of the technology giant, citing the Cambridge Analytica revelations and what it meant for democracy. Felix Salmon, writing for WIRED, the technology and culture magazine, said that he believes that resigning is ‘exactly what he [Zuckerberg] should do now.’ Devin Coldewey of the tech industry publication TechCrunch wrote in March that ‘now would be a good time for Mark Zukerberg to resign.’

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