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Is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s leadership style really effective?



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Last December, SpringOwl Asset Management’s Eric Jackson dropped a 99-page presentation to Yahoo’s board making the case that Mayer should be fired.

He slammed Mayer for her extravagant spending on staff perks including $450 million on free food, $9 million on new phones, and $7 million on a Great Gatsby-themed holiday party. “I don’t think she has any management skills,” he said.

The most commonly discussed charge against Mayer was that she micromanages.

Business Insider reporter Nicholas Carlson’s unauthorised biography- Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! detailed Mayer’s downfall from saviour of Yahoo when she was first hired 2012 to the troubled executive she is today.

In the book, Mayer is depicted as agonising over such details as colours and fonts and is described as “robotic, stuck up, and absurd in her obsession with detail”.

All these incidents beg the one question – if her leadership style was so inefficient, how did she rise up the ranks in the first place?

It is commonly known that while she seemed tough to work with, she made several small but, to employees, meaningful moves to energise Yahoo.

She offered free gourmet meals in the cafeteria and issued employees new smartphones—a must, she argued, at a company that would be developing apps.

To get people to collaborate more, she banned telecommuting. She removed the high-walled cubicles, making the offices more open and startup-like, and began hosting weekly, company-wide “FYI” meetings— a practice reported to be borrowed from Google.

ALSO READ: Yahoo’s SVP, talent acquisition and development steps down

She also improved Yahoo’s hiring. She oversaw the hiring of engineers working on its mobile apps personally and led an ambitious effort to acquire small companies with talented engineering teams.

Despite her spectacular and somewhat controversial tenure, Mayer’s job seems to be in danger with the sale of Yahoo’s core business on the line, which is reported to have drawn more than 10 bidders as of last week.

Verizon which reportedly is the leading bidder, has AOL CEO Tim Armstrong who could takeover Yahoo and it is reported to be unlikely for him to retain the current management.

Mayer’s position is so weak, that according to a recent report in Bloomberg Businessweek, when the publication’s reporter and an editor visited the Yahoo offices in New York for an interview, a security guard asked, unprompted, whether Mayer would keep her job.

When the question was put back to him, he shook his head, grimaced, and tugged at his collar. “Those hedge fund guys,” he said, “they really don’t like her.”

In the latest development in Yahoo’s fight to revive its business, the struggling tech company gave in to activist investor Starboard Value, allowing four of its allies including CEO, Jeffrey Smith, on the board.

With Starboard in the driver’s seat now, many speculate that Marissa Mayer’s days with CEO are numbered.

Starboard has previously expressed that it would like to bring “significant changes” across the executive-leadership team, and doesn’t seem to support Mayer’s existing turnaround plan.

In a news release, Mayer called the agreement with Starboard a “constructive resolution.”

Smith said in the release that he looked forward to “getting started right away and working closely with management and our fellow board members with the common goal of maximising value for all shareholders.”

ALSO READ: Yahoo terminates employees in Singapore

Image: Shutterstock



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