Editor's Note: This is the seventh article in a monthly series focusing on business and leadership lessons from prominent figures in history, sports, politics and corporate America.
NEW YORK (
) -- Marissa Mayer, the new CEO and president of
(YHOO - Get Report)
, is already being hailed as a pioneer: Mayer is the youngest female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
At just 37, nearly seven months pregnant and less than a month on the job, the pressure is on. Regardless of her age and sex, shareholders of the $19 billion dollar internet company
expect her to revive
its struggling business model -- and soon.
Mayer comes into a job that didn't end so well for predecessors. From Carol Bartz to the most recent Yahoo! CEO failure, Scott Thompson -- who had to resign after a frustrated hedge fund investor uncovered lies on his resume -- the Yahoo! CEO job has most recently been associated with failure, failure of a spectacular and very public nature.
While Mayer clearly made a major contribution to
(GOOG - Get Report)
expansion and success as one of the search giant's initial engineers, questions persist about whether she has the experience to run a public company.
Yet for the technology sector, by nature always looking to the future -- and for a company like Yahoo! which needs a new outlook -- Mayer's selection makes sense for at least one obvious reason. "She brings the youth movement to the table," says Adam Connors, managing partner of
Spire Search Partners
in Hoboken, N.J. "Leadership these days is trending younger and she is crossing a couple of borders between women, youth and technology, which is signifying the future."
"That's a powerful statement to take somebody that young and put her in that position at such a critical point in the company's future," says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner of Cornerstone Search Group in Parisppany, N.J. "[It] is making a tremendous statement about how they feel about her and really the face of the company moving forward."
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Connors say the primary questions for Mayer don't relate to the technology sector but to leadership itself: can she prove to be fiscally responsible, and make her vision clear and win the loyalty of employees and investors (who have seen too many Yahoo! CEOs and too little in the way of progress.) "As a CEO, you have to have a good commanding presence and then speak with conviction," Connors says. It may seem like simple advice, but given Yahoo!'s recent tumult, it can't be understated.
Yet focusing too much on what Mayer has yet to accomplish as Yahoo! CEO runs the risk of giving short thrift to what she has already accomplished on her way to the top of the Fortune 500. There are lessons from Mayer's rise that leaders, business owners and other executives, especially women, can take with them as they attempt to continue up the corporate ladder or build their own businesses. We've come up with four lessons, specifically.