If you’re a smart, dynamic leader, you can get away with a few character defects. Employees will still follow you—to a point.
Marissa Mayer possesses many leadership qualities. She’s bright, articulate and a self-professed computer geek who’s Yahoo’s president and chief executive.
But Mayer, 38, has her share of personality flaws. While one or two weaknesses might be easy to overlook, former employees grumble about three hard-to-ignore failings.
1. Mayer has a history of hogging credit for her team’s accomplishments. In her previous job as a Google senior executive, Mayer aggressively courted the media. In a Glamour article, she boasted, “It’s hard to tell where my aesthetic ends and Google’s begins.”
In overstating her influence, Mayer stoked resentment among Google staffers who felt that they deserved some recognition. She rarely cited their contributions in press interviews.
2. She tended to act like a tyrant. Rather than heed input and admit when she was wrong, she’d jump to conclusions and insist on her rightness.
Her tendency to cling to her own viewpoint at Google—and disregard others’ insights—proved particularly alienating to her peers. Some executives chafed at her dictatorial, top-down style.
3. She often ran late. Busy colleagues would show up on time for appointments—only to wait for Mayer.
Soon after she was named Yahoo’s CEO in 2012, the company’s board of directors asked her to mend fences with Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s interim CEO who sought the top job. Mayer scheduled a meeting with Levinsohn, who arrived on time and then waited and waited.
Finally, he told Mayer’s aide, “I’m going to wait in my office.” The assistant replied, “Oh no, you have to sit right here and wait” even though Levinsohn’s office was just down the hall.
He quit Yahoo shortly thereafter.
— Adapted from “Yahoo’s Geek Goddess,” Bethany McLean.