A few weeks ago, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer was criticized for her decision to forgo a standard maternity leave. Instead, Mayer is choosing to take a brief working leave, as she did when her last child was born. In the wake of her announcement, she’s been criticized by the Internet in general. Certain circles accuse Mayer of not leading by example, paving the way for other women to demand greater respect for maternity leave. Others point out that she is exercising privilege afforded only to the very wealthy. Still others point out that Mayer should never have felt obligated to share about her maternity plans to anyone.
It’s true that the CEO owes us no explanation. Mayer has never stated that her mission is to even the playing field for women. But as a founder of a small company that’s recently been met with a similar challenge, I have my own bone to pick with Mayer. And while there are discussions about class structure and gender relations to be considered, my question is about the efficacy of leadership.
In July, I went into a typical prenatal visit to find that my health and the health of my baby were in danger. I had severe preeclampsia and would be hospitalized for the next three weeks. Afterward, my daughter would spend three more weeks in the NICU, making my total time in the hospital over a month and a half. The suddenness of this diagnosis completely shut down my plans for the summer. But while it did cancel a few baby showers, it did not shut down this firm. I have learned the amazing value of hiring well, developing those people, and then letting them succeed.
Mayer has been criticized for her decision as a woman and a mother. But I have not seen much written about her leadership. Speculators consider that this move was meant to keep investors feeling confident. However, I’d like to put this out there: If a CEO hasn’t developed her team enough that she can take a decent maternity leave, investors have more to fear than they realize. If a corporation needs a CEO’s constant presence to function, it’s a poorly built and poorly trained team. The CEO being on deck is only serving to keep the inevitable at bay. She becomes a manager more than a leader.
City of Light Consulting is not a billion-dollar business. It has never had an IPO, and it never will. But what it does have is an amazing team. That team was developed with intention. As a leader, I think as much about making growing CLC’s people and advancing our mission as I do about developing client relationships. If we are not growing in our strengths and continuing strong communication each day, then I’m failing. But, when a crisis hit, it showed that we had done well, that we’d trained successfully, and that we’d been able to withstand because of it.