By Michael Holland    

Uproar, controversy, and disbelief.  The business world and thousands of bloggers wonder how golden girl Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo , could make such a horrible decision regarding remote employees.  How could this high-tech executive—the 20th employee at Google, the builder of the successful teams that launched Gmail, Google Maps, and iGoogle, and the woman recruited to be the savior of Yahoo—make such a decision?

Well, it’s fairly simple:  she is a radical leader leading courageously.

Leaders should . . .

  1. See the Landscape – Great leaders go to the tops of the trees and look out over the forest to the horizon to see what terrain the company must navigate and how the environmental factors may impact the path forward.  We couldn’t foresee what Steve Jobs saw with the value of the iPhone; nor can we foresee what Marissa Mayer sees as she scans the horizon.
  2. Lead the Team – Great leaders transform teams to excel at plotting courses of action and making good (and sometimes extremely tough) decisions.   While the media focuses on tarnishing a high profile CEO, I’m more curious about Yahoo’s executive team and their moment of truth as they either pull together in support of “their” decision or cower in the corner.  Mayer is appropriately taking on her role and leading forward; time will reveal how well she builds teams.
  3. Keep the Body Alive – Companies fail.  Yahoo was failing.  Great doctors know drastic measures are needed at times to save a life.  Radical, invasive treatments bring human bodies near death in order to be saved.  Great leaders must have the vision and guts to take failing companies through radical treatments in order to save their organization.

14,000-plus employees trust their livelihood and future on the ability of Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo executive team to lead the company forward.  They are paid an extreme amount of money to make tough decisions and lead the company through the valley of despair to survival. While on the surface it appears that Yahoo’s policy change is destructive, we really have no idea how this decision fits within the fabric of decisions Mayer and her executive team are weaving.  But we do know this: leaders must make hard decisions.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • When was the last time you faced a touch leadership decision? How did you lead your team radically and courageously? If you had read the three guidelines listed in this Leadership Learning Moment, would you have done anything differently?
  • Imagine that your team is struggling in some way. Take a moment to walk through each of these steps, coming up with concrete actions you could take for each one to help your team survive.
  • How would you “See the Landscape”? “Lead the Team”? What would you do to “Keep the Body Alive”?