Why Can’t We Just Admire a CEO For Her Business Smarts?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Sitting in the waiting room of our pediatric dentist’s office last week, I was thrilled to find myself with 20 kid-free minutes and Vogue’s massive 902 page fall fashion issue resting on my lap.

I headed straight to the Jacob Weisberg article that was getting so much press, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer: Hail to the Chief.

There it was.

The dress, the upside-down pose, the shiny thick blond hair fanned across an ultra-mod lawn chair.

“Lovely,” I thought to myself.

5 nuggets about Yahoo’s CEO

After reading the piece, the last thing to cross my mind were the trash-talking reactions like “Shame on you Marissa Mayer for playing into stereotypes,” or how awful that she pooh-poohs her own ambition by casting “herself as a princess instead of as a trailblazer?”

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Call me a simpleton but no belly button gazing analytics are required here. It was a fun article with interesting leadership and communication nuggets.

  • Nugget #1: Her gender blindness —  “At Google, Mayer’s approach was the opposite of her friend Sheryl Sandberg’s. As employee number 20, she was often asked how it felt to be the only woman on engineering teams. She’d answer truthfully: She hadn’t noticed.”
  • Nugget #2: It’s about what’s right for the organization — “She never meant it (the decision to end working from home policy) as any kind of larger statement about society, but simply as the right decision for Yahoo, where by various accounts working from home often meant hardly working.”
  • Nugget #3: She’s an introvert — “I will literally look at my watch and say, ‘You can’t leave until time x,’ ” she says. “ ‘And if you’re still having a terrible time at time x, you can leave.’ ” She has learned that if she makes herself stay for a fixed period, she often gets over her social awkwardness and ends up having fun.”
  • Nugget #4: That’s some serious energy — “One night I looked up and was like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s midnight and I have a husband and I’m, like, eight months pregnant. I need to leave!’ I was just here working, having the best possible time.”
  • Nugget #5: She’s one of them — “She is extremely driven, and that inspires people. Developers are excited about working for a leader like her, someone who says, ‘I’m in; who’s with me?’ And they’re excited about working for an underdog.”

Why is Marissa Mayer’s image in Vogue such a big deal? I’m still not convinced it is.

I look forward to the day when we can admire a smart, savvy business leader … and her awesome shoes. And leave it at that.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults and a change and human resources consultant, having served in diverse internal and external consulting roles for over 16 years. Prior to People Results, Marta was affiliated with Accenture where she held leadership positions in a number of successful large-scale people initiatives. Connect with her on Twitter at Twitter.com/MartaSteele or via email at msteele@people-results.com.

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7 Comments on “Why Can’t We Just Admire a CEO For Her Business Smarts?

  1. She is a great example of being who she is and doing what she thinks is right – not what everyone expects. I love this blog, Marta. I think this Vogue cover is just that.

    1. Thank you Patti. It’s not easy to stand up for what you think is right, or for simply what you want to do. Glad she did.

  2. Marta – thanks for your blog and take on this topic. I completely agree that it’s important to look at her key skills/qualities/characteristics and acknowledge how that’s what has contributed to her success.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Martha. It’s time to look past all the distractions and notice what really matters.

  3. Thanks so much for pulling out these great tips, Marta! I also think it’s important to keep context in mind. Of course she’s wearing a beautiful dress in a glamour shot for VOGUE. If this were a Forbes cover, we’d have a problem, but a leading fashion magazine is not putting a corporate headshot in their magazine. Nor should they.

  4. Right on, Marta! No one has the same definition of success, so why are we all looking for the “magic” answer to get there? She has been successful by her definition and in that environment. Cheers to her, and keep rockin’ the amazing shoes!

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