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3 Thought Leaders Who Were Full of It

Posted on 6.14.2014

:: By Diana Zelikman, Fueled ::

People in important leadership positions generally have the best intentions, but sometimes even if they mean well their ideas are not necessarily the best. We all have opinions, but not all of them are floating out on the Internet for the world to see.

We wanted to explore the notion of ‘thought leader’ and what happens when they’re completely ‘full of it. The three ‘thought leaders’ below have been in the press in the past few years because a statement or comment they made got them a lot of press, but not in a good way.

Marissa Mayer – CEO of Yahoo!

While we love that Mayer is so vocal, sometimes she doesn’t get it quite right. In Feb. 2013, when she had just become the new CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa announced that one of the first changes she would be making was that employees could no longer work from home.

We’re not sure if anyone ever mentioned the work/life balance theory to Marissa. This announcement didn’t exactly allow the best working conditions for employees who have a life outside of work with kids, husbands, wives, sick parents or children, and so forth.

There’s also the notion that workplaces have become areas where no work can get done, and are more popularly known as “interruption factories.” Jason Fried said, “If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond ‘the office’.” 

In most instances they’ll say they prefer to take work home, or get to work super early before anyone else arrives. They’ll even stay until late at night – these are all instances where there are no interruptions like during the normal office day.

Unfortunately for Marissa, it didn’t win her any favors. She’s since been proven wrong by the increasing number of people choosing to telecommute (and brands offering this as incentives) and the many freelancers out there that work from home. 

Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple

There have been many instances of Steve Jobs being thoroughly hounded by the press, both disputing things he said as well as heralding him as a progressive thought leader.

One thing that Ben Taylor, from Time, believes he got wrong - and proves it - is when Jobs said that 7-inch tablets were “dead on arrival.” Jobs believed that there were limits on how close you could place elements on a touchscreen, which is why he felt the 10-inch screen size should be the minimum size for a tablet. That’s why at that time, Apple was only producing 10-inch tablets.

Fast forward three years and the 7.85-inch iPad Mini is a huge success, with it set to be one of Apple’s best-selling items. At the risk of sounding insensitive, surely Jobs, if he were still here today, would have to admit that he was wrong and that the 7-inch tablet has a real place in the market among other tablets? We can only speculate.

Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla

In this day in age, leaders need to remember that when they’re leading a high-profile company they can’t be seen supporting any type of policy that could lead to misunderstanding. Otherwise, even customers that are loyal fans will probably stop using their products because they don’t agree with their ideology.

Unfortunately for Eich, his donation of $1,000 in support of California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that would see same-sex marriages outlawed, back in 2008 found this out the hard way.

Eich is actually a co-founder of Mozilla and had only recently stepped into the CEO role. He had previously drawn negative attention for the donation, but even more emphasis was put on it once he became CEO.  

As the leader of a nonprofit company, he shouldn’t have supported a campaign that affected those who might have used Firefox since it resulted in a major outcry across social media networks that lasted for weeks. It ultimately lead to his quick resignation as CEO.

As these three leaders found out, it pays to really think about what you say before publicly announcing it. As Microsoft Corp. Chairman John Thompson said, “You have to be mindful of how things you do and say will affect your customers, your employees and your investors.”

Diana Zelikman is an editor at Fueled, the leading iPhone app builder in New York City, renowned for its award winning mobile design and strategy.

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