It is amazing how Yahoo’s top management just keeps providing us with lessons on how a strong Leader should NOT act. The latest wave of negative articles about what is going on at Yahoo was spawned by the recent exit of dozens of Yahoo executives.
When I step back from all that negative Yahoo press, which increasingly is pointing to a serious leadership problem at the top, there are three examples of actions taken by the CEO of Yahoo that have really stuck with me. These are the kind of behaviors that really destroy any confidence the troops may have in their leader:
1.) Require your direct reports sign a commitment to stay for three more years – Yahoo has floundered for years, and continues to flounder of recent, and the CEO keeps deflecting critique by saying that reviving growth will take many years. What the troops see is no clear sense of direction, while the company disappoints Wall Street quarter after quarter. Why doesn’t the CEO realize that in this situation, asking an executive to commit in writing for three more years is simply saying to them that they should get off this sinking ship?
2.) Redefine the key measures so the result looks better – When Yahoo acquired Tumbler for $1.1 billion in May, 2013, it claimed that it would add 300 million users, and that would put Yahoo over the 1billion mark. Interestingly, after the integration of the acquisition Yahoo’s CEO decided they needed to redefine their methodology of measuring their audience and by October of 2014, claimed it had crossed over the 1 billion user threshold. Meanwhile, the business continued to decline. Employees are not dumb – they know what desperation looks like!
3.) Never miss getting invited as a speaker at national and international conferences – Just in the past 6 months, the CEO has pontificated at numerous industry and leadership national conferences; for example, the Bloomberg Technology Conference in June, 2015, the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in September, 2015, and the Fortune Global Forum in November, 2015. Of course, the CEO never misses getting invited to the international Davos meetings in January of each year. Does the CEO really think that employees don’t notice, as the business continues to flounder?
Strong leaders know that job #1 is to always face reality, and provide incredible sense of urgency to develop a plan of attack that has a reasonable chance of success, and to quickly correct on the fly to make sure positive results are achieved.