A Failure to Delegate

This week Marissa Mayer unveiled Yahoo's new logo design, ending the 18 year reign of their former logo. Reactions to the redesign have been less than ideal, but whether the logo is actually good or not, something Mayer said in her blog post interested me.

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design,
and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of
the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a
pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove
into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer,
Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma.
We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the
logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing
every minute detail.

Marissa Mayer is the President and CEO of Yahoo, and yet she spent a weekend wearing her "graphic artist" hat and designing Yahoo's new logo. Some would undoubtedly see this evidence of a "hands-on" CEO as a good thing, but I see it as a failure to delegate. Part of being a good leader is recognizing that other people are better at some things than you are—and to assign projects as such. A CEO – the top-level of all management – who insists on being involved at the implementation level of projects is a CEO who will limit what the company can do.

Microsoft is not an ideal company right now, but they're certainly doing better than Yahoo. Imagine though, that Ballmer spent half of every day writing C++ for new Microsoft products. What state would Microsoft be in compared to where they are now? Would they be launching Xbox One and pushing Windows 8 at the same time? Can one person be heavily involved with the implementation of both products? Most likely not. So, how is Microsoft managing to do both things? By delegating. A CEO's job isn't to write C++ for core products, just like their job isn't to design the company's logo. Certainly they should be involved in the process – the logo does help set the company's image and tone – but involved is not the same as implemented.

I have no doubt that Mayer wants Yahoo to succeed. Her acquisitions of companies like Tumblr show that she's desperately trying to get fresh, new developers on-board. If she's going to be successful, though, she needs to ditch the habit of micromanaging. She needs to be humble enough to realize that her job is to set Yahoo's direction, lead them into the future, and leave design, programming, and other sorts of implementation to the professionals that she's worked so hard to hire.

A Failure to Delegate
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