With all the flurry of controversy around Facebook over the last several days, I have to comment on my blog in its relation to leadership. I was totally impressed with the apology and explanation Mark Zuckerberg offered in his posting to Facebook account holders. What I was amazed by was that he approached it as a textbook example of what to do when you screw up. Accepting responsibility, apologizing, and correcting our actions is one of the most difficult things to do in leadership. The tendency among some leaders is to justify, rationalize, excuse our behavior by suggesting that it is others' perception that created the offense. Another headline right now is Arnold's debacle with cultural stereotypes in his private meetings. In Arnold's case, he apologized but said in his quasi-apology "I am sorry that others took offense" rather than saying "I screwed up and apologize."
Mark Zuckerberg provided a wonderful example of accepting responsibility by apologizing in his very first paragraph. Then he went on to describe that he and his colleagues were too hasty in launching the new information feature on Facebook. He described how he and others are scrambling to rewrite the code to correct the mistake. Finally, he thanked Facebook account holders for their patience and reinforced the importance of open communication on Facebook and expressed appreciation to those who communicated their displeasure to him. These are precisely the kinds of behaviors that are needed in leadership. It reinforces confidence rather than undermines it. As a rather strange participant on Facebook (older, administrator, etc.), my support of Facebook is greater today than it was yesterday. Yes, Facebook has had some bad moments but those have mostly been the result of our use rather than Facebook's actions. Facebook provides a way to connect and to have some fun - it is our responsibility to use it appropriately.
Kudos to Mark and his team - I hope many Facebook account holders catch the leadership implication that we've just witnessed. Note to self - lessons about leadership can be found in the most interesting places...
Additional note on 9-22-06: I have been disappointed that Mark Zuckerberg and his team have not substantially modified the functionality that raised so much concern in the last two weeks. When I offered the comment above, Mr. Zuckerberg appeared to be demonstrating the best of leadership. At this point, the jury is still out.