leadership lessons from mark zuckerberg

6 Leadership Lessons from Mark Zuckerberg

This article was last updated on April 18, 2022

We all know who Mark Zuckerberg is, he is the man behind Facebook. Zuckerberg’s goal to ‘connect people’ has changed the very nature of the modern world, allowing hundreds of millions of people around the world to digitally communicate with more or less anybody who’s got a Wi-Fi connection, stating that “By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent”. But Zuckerberg is more than just an incredible innovator, he is also a great leader. But what lessons can we learn from this social media mogul?

6 Leadership Lessons from Mark Zuckerberg


Stick to your beliefs

Back in the early stages of Facebook, when it was still called The Facebook and meetings were held in Zuckerberg’s dorm room at Harvard, Facebook co-founder Edwardo Estavez wanted to monetize the website with advertising. Mark didn’t want to do this and put his foot down, arguing that what they had was cool, and that this coolness was the driving force behind the sites popularity. While Facebook may now be littered with advertising, Zuckerberg’s stubborn nature was perhaps a key moment in protecting what made Facebook blow up so quickly.


Do what it takes to get what you want

If you have ever watched an interview with the Facebook founder you will notice how determined and focussed he is on driving Facebook perpetually forward. This has been true since day one. To get the growth he wanted Mark used his computer programming skills as a type of currency to trade for exposure or favours, offering hours of coding time in exchange for a contact or other favours.  To get what you want, and to take your vision in the right direction, you have to be able to use what you’ve got. Without this smart use of social currency, Facebook may not have been as big as it is today.


Go Big or Go Home

Facebook may be a huge internet and social media phenomenon now, but it wasn’t always that way, and while it grew quickly, what made it stand out was Zuckerberg’s drive and vision for where his dorm room start-up would end up. When you are building a company, you have to dream so big that you fear telling small minds. Zuckerberg dreamed of connecting hundreds of millions of people around the world, and he succeeded.  Working towards a goal takes a lot of small steps, but they all add up. Use Mark as an example and go big.

The question Zuckerberg asks himself to make sure he’s going big: “The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’”


Choose the Right People

When The Social Network came out in 2010 and the story of Facebook’s early days was seen by millions, we also saw some rather unusual ‘job interviews’. These interviews consisted of coding, shots and a crowd of drunken college kids; not your average interview. It may seem like a theatricalised portrayal of the employment process for the sake of the film, but the fact remains that these things did happen, and there are two reasons why. Firstly they were college kids making something most people couldn’t dream of, and secondly Mark was testing to see who could adapt, and whether they were the right fit for a start-up full of young lads in a relatively unknown entrepreneurial landscape. It may seem odd, but it was an effective way of choosing who was right for the job. Plus it looked mega fun.

Mark on what the right people need to do: People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.”

You Have to be Ruthless

The conflict between Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss twins and co-founder Estavez was popular in media and became even more widespread as a result of the film. Regardless of whether you think Mark was harsh to his once best friend or that he ripped-off the Olympic rowers, you have to admire his ruthlessness. He saw these people as threats to his vision so he removed the threat. You may not agree with his methods, but in business ruthlessness is essential. Hopefully you won’t need to cut your best friend out of your company, but you will need to show some stomach as an entrepreneur.

Mark’s view on the entrepreneurial method: “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough”


Have high standards

This lesson is probably the most important and central to Mark’s success. He simply didn’t accept less than what he saw as perfect. There is a story which tells of Mark approaching one of the first employees  at Facebook; he looked at this person’s  work on a potential homepage change, and on seeing this poor guys hours and hours of work, threw his drink at the screen and  told him it was  &$%* and he had to do it again. This quality, reminiscent of Steve Jobs, was the level of perfection Mark held his employees to. To do something great, you can only accept great things.

His views on what his standards are about: “I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.”


Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce via flickr

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