Green is the new Gold. And corporate social responsibility is big Green. As employers adjust to a rising tide of worker demands and government policies to protect labor, going Green is as much about how corporate leadership paves the way towards work-life balance for its ranks. Marissa Mayer missed a huge Green opportunity with her personal announcement about her micro-maternity leave.
Mayer, as CEO of Yahoo, a publicly traded company with huge significance in the public spectrum, may represent to the Board of Directors and Shareholders an admirable work ethic and dedication to the company – however, she represents something more to the entire company of Yahoo, Inc. – the value of human capital.
The sum of all the employees of a company are only as valuable as their leadership makes them. This is where corporate social responsibility stems. Leadership that elevates the value of its human capital is often able to reach greater productivity, quality and performance standards from a labor force that is excited, happy and motivated to show up every day. The balance of happiness and motivation is often a level of comfort that is provided by leadership demonstrated by its views and acknowledgement towards its labor force as an important part of the operation.
The stumble in Mayer’s decision to announce her micro-maternity was glaring – it put her executive team on notice that 1. She is a superhero and that can do superhuman feats, and 2. she does not trust her team enough to delegate the responsibility of the operations to them for a short time. This was a missed opportunity to demonstrate great leadership and a huge misstep in creating a culture of success. The image of Mayer as leader of Yahoo may differ greatly between shareholders and labor, and this may create serious conflict.
While concerns (See Fortune article) over whether Mayer’s decision have impacted the greater challenges of women in the workplace, by de-coupling her personal maternity choice from the policy she put in place for her staff, or whether shareholder concern over her turnaround plan pressured her decision, what most discussion revolves around is the core fact that Mayer is a woman, not a man – this is a fundamental mistake.
Equality in the workplace may still be a virtue that women as a gender must continue to fight to achieve, but leadership should not be judged on gender. Leadership is a matter of action and achievement. Woman have not achieved their success in spite of being woman, they have achieved success because of their unique experience as women. They have proven an incredible willingness to overcome the challenges of the workplace and succeed. Mayer is a shining example of what such achievements can offer the workplace. However, this is the 21st Century. We are supposed to be moving away from archaic thinking of gender differences and focus more on total corporate responsibility – triple bottom line profits and sustainability.
Mayer should have used her announcement to embolden her executive team and put her trust in the excellent talent she commands at Yahoo. As the Captain of the ship, she is supposed to position her team in a direction to run the ship in her absence. Furthermore, this was an opportunity to set herself apart from other CEOs of publicly-traded companies who try to represent a Superhero image (See Jamie Dimon battle with throat cancer)
As corporate social responsibility continues to take hold in the Greening of our society and our workplace, leadership will carry a significant weight of the burden, which is what leaders do. However, the opportunity with corporate social responsibility is to create a culture of accountability with your team. This is where leadership can truly elevate its company in the 21st century. Make your talent accountable and capable, put your vision and confidence in their hands. Give them the direction, tools and commands to succeed and let them drive the success for shareholders and the public to see. This will make going Green all the more profitable.