In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. A few days ago, Instagram's co-founders, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, walked away from their relationship with their social media parent in what looks like another "leave before things get too ugly" exit.

This is far from the first exodus from Facebook, which has been under siege for privacy breaches and rampant "fake news." After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, What'sApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum walked away. Facebook also said goodbye to its general counsel, VP of partnerships, and director of communications over the past year.

Rats, meet sinking ship. Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been taking on water in great part because while Zuckerberg has been busy insisting that his company is more than capable of putting a stop to the privacy breaches, hate speech and trash news, nothing has changed.

Just a few days ago, Facebook was hit with the largest security intrusion in its history: 50 million accounts compromised. Lawmakers are talking about regulating social media. Zuckerberg's statement: "We're taking it really seriously. I'm glad we found this, but it definitely is an issue that this happened in the first place."

Wow. Be still, my heart.

You've heard it before. Facebook has promised to use its massive resources (about $45 billion in cash) to fix these problems, but the problems persist. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems insincere and tone deaf. So, if you've ever wondered, "What could kill a company with more than 2.2 billion users?" this might be your answer.

Facebook and its creator are learning an old-school lesson that's still relevant even in the "everything's changed" era of the Internet: Leadership still relies on trust, and no one trusts a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is contagious. That's why Krieger and Systrom left. They didn't want to be contaminated. Leaders have acquired cult status based on hype, audacity, and wealth, but when someone follows you, they're trusting you not to lead them off a cliff. They're trusting that their association with you will leave them better than when they showed up.

When that stops being the case--when a company like Facebook betrays trust over and over again--followers stop following. Facebook won't disappear because of these repeated fiascos, but Zuckerberg might. Somebody has to pay.

Want to avoid that fate? Here are four tips:

1. If you don't know, say so.

The people you lead won't expect you to have all the answers, but they will expect you to be honest when you don't know what to do next. Don't try to be all-knowing; that just creates expectations you can't meet.

What to do: When a problem has you stumped, huddle with your core team and own up to it: "Guys, I'm not sure what the next step is here. Can I get your help to brainstorm a solution?"

2. Just fix it.

If a problem is mission-critical, everything else stops. Don't make excuses. Don't calm people down. Don't do damage control. Solve the problem.

What to do: People today are multi-taskers and need permission to go all-in on something. Let your team know it's okay to drop everything and find a solution.

3. Don't think you're opaque.

You're not that mysterious. Your people are smart, and they will see right through any facade you put up. Be transparent about good times and bad. Zuckerberg's biggest blunders have come when he's tried to be cool in the face of disaster.

What to do: Say something like, "Okay. I'm feeling as stressed about this as the rest of you, but let's focus our efforts and bring our A-games to put forth the best solution we can."

Published on: Oct 3, 2018
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