A new book by Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson sets out why Mayer is struggling to keep it together as chief executive. We discover some disturbing hallmarks of dysfunctional leadership: self-importance, schoolmarmishness, a lack of intellectual humility and what can only be described as breathtaking insensitivity and arrogance when it comes to the feelings, not to mention the schedules, of people around her.My opinions on Marissa Mayer are limited to the observation that she is pretty cute for a CEO. I have an acquaintance who worked closely with her at Google and he struck me as mildly skeptical about the chances for her success there, although he obviously liked her as an individual and thought she was smart enough for the job.
These perceived personal failings are compounded by disinterest in the business side of things, which makes you wonder why Yahoo!’s board ever thought she’d be a good CEO at all. At Google, Carlson wrote in a column last year, Mayer was “all about the product.” She was focused on users but totally unmoved by business. At Yahoo!, that pattern has continued—and, some say, got worse.
The reason her apparent failure is important is that it will puncture, again, the myth of sexual equality in business, and permits us to anticipate the deleterious effect on those corporations who fill their boards with female executives, whether by choice or legislative fiat.
For me, the main problem is the characteristic female lack of curiosity. Insensitivity and arrogance are hardly unheard of in the ranks of male executives, but being disinterested in the fundamentals of business and business relationships strikes me as being a fatal weakness in a CEO.