Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer believes her leadership style can be described in a word: “Listening.”
Speaking at the Fortune Global Forum on Tuesday in San Francisco, Meyer explained:
“I think of leadership as listening,” she says. Her mentor Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s new parent company Alphabet taught her that her “job as an executive is to set a vision, listen to the team and get things out of the way so they can run at that vision as fast as they can.”
In her early days, she made listening to her employees her top priority. She retold the famous story of how she went to the cafeteria each day for a couple of hours, letting all employees share their ideas with her.
This was hard for her.
“I’m actually quite shy so it was a challenge for me,” she said.
Fast forward three years and Mayer is struggling with her task to refresh the ageing but iconic internet company, with disappointing quarterly results and a lack of a huge new hit product and quickly backtracking on some of her most ambitious attempts, like the recent $US42 million write-down of video shows such as “Community.”
It’s led to some of her most trusted executives giving up on Yahoo and taking jobs elsewhere. She’s “feeling the pressure,” people close to Yahoo told Business Insider, and some people have accused her of no longer listening to others like she did in those early months.
An attendee at Fortune brought that up indirectly, asking how she “keeps people patient” during a long turnaround.
Mayer admitted that doing so is “always a challenge.”
She said the key was “innovation … something to work on. A new idea, a new feature, or new product.”
For instance, she says that Yahoo’s fantasy football could expand into the hot new thing, of “daily fantasy” teams. Other areas she thinks will excite her employees include applying artificial intelligence to search or Yahoo mail.
“New ideas to work on. I think that’s where the lifeblood comes from.”
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