4 Leadership Lessons From Marissa Mayer's Surprise Rise
1. Throw your hat in the ring.
You'll never know if you can do something unless you try. So try. Mayer may not have the experience of a seasoned chief executive, but is it fair to say that just because she hasn't done this job before that means she won't succeed?
In fact, Mayer has been in a similar "here come the naysayers" position before.
Specifically, this is not Mayer's first time at being a first female. When she joined Google in 1999, she was the company's first female engineer. Mayer's resume most recently included being vice president of Google's local, maps, and location services, however, she has held numerous executive positions in the company and launched more than 100 well-known Google features and products.
Mayer "got herself into a position where she could take a huge career risk with impunity and become the CEO of a large company," says Peter Cohan, an adjunct professor at Babson College and owner of a strategy consulting and venture capital firm, adding that it's, "a very unusual example of somebody who starts off as an important player in a small business and ends up turning herself into a big company executive." Taking the top job at Yahoo! shows that she is willing to take a risk, even if it might be more of a risk to her reputation than to her financial situation at this point, he says.
Cohan started his company in 1994. At the time, he says, he thought the idea was extremely risky, but in the end a good decision.
"Sometimes taking a risk is actually less risky than not taking a risk," Cohan says.
It is also clearly a risky bet from Yahoo!'s perspective.
2. Women need to network.
"Women are kind of lacking of the good old boy network or the ability to leverage their peers," says Robin Toft, president and CEO of Sanford Rose Associates - San Diego , the La Jolla, Calif.-based division of the international executive search firm. Toft's office focuses on placing female executives in C-suite offices.
"What I realize by working with them is that female CEOs don't know each other and don't leverage each other for best practices or intelligence or support," she says.
Toft strongly recommends that women business owners and executives build peer networks to cultivate relationships and be well-connected to executive search professionals to keep abreast of possibilities.
It is also generally harder for a female executive to establish credibility.
The fact that Mayer was able to do this internally at Google is in and of itself an example of "excellent leadership," Toft says. And her leadership likely included some attributes with which women excel more often than men. "Women have been known to care more about employees, multi-task more -- there are certain things that women do well by their nature," the executive recruiter adds.