The Most Popular CEO in America Is...Who?

By Claire Gordon

His popular image is antisocial, cold, calculating, and charmless. He's faced scores of lawsuits, accusing him of poaching ideas and tricking investors. In a 2010 Oscar-winning movie, he was the inspiration for an entirely new kind of nebbishy villain. But in addition to being the richest American under 30, Mark Zuckerberg is also the country's most beloved chief executive.

At least according to Glassdoor.com. The site collects company reviews, and says that Zuckerberg, 28, received a 99 percent approval from the nearly 400 Facebook employees who chose to rate him. That's a 14-points jump from last year.

Yet in many ways, it's been a rough year for Zuckerberg. He was widely charged with bungling his company's initial public offering last May, as the value of its shares fell from $38 to around $25 within a month. The price plunge sparked over 50 investor lawsuits, reports Reuters, and a class action suit is currently in the works.



But Zuckerberg is clearly doing something right, and one of those things is knowing what he's done wrong. According to a New York Times profile last year, Zuckerberg has deftly surrounded himself with people who have the skills that he lacks. His advisers include Bill Gates, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, Washington Post chairman and CEO Donald Graham, and his No. 2 at Facebook and expert "leaner," Sheryl Sandberg.

Employees praise Facebook's 'startup' culture. Despite recently celebrating its ninth birthday, making Facebook an old stalwart of Silicon Valley, the company has managed to largely maintain its startup culture, according to employee reviews on Glassdoor.com. Engineers rave about the freedom they're given, their power to make an individual impact, the whiplash pace of innovation, as well as the company's famously fun-time atmosphere.

"An open community from Zuck on down," one Facebook employee wrote on Glassdoor.com. "Mutual trust companywide and sense of community and drive, instilled by our CEO, who we all truly respect."

The boss has vision. And over the last year, the Zuck has proven his ability to lead. According to reports, he negotiated the purchase of the photo app Instragram largely on his lonesome. And while the $1 billion price tag -- for a company that had no revenue -- raised at least a billion eyebrows, there seemed to be an underlying faith that Zuckerberg could see potential where others could not. His board, The New York Times reported, put up no resistance to the deal.

" The vision of management and Mark Zuckerberg is to prioritize long term goals over short term ones," writes a Facebook project manager on Glassdoor.com.

And perhaps that's what really sets Zuckerberg apart from other CEOs. Facebook users have come to embrace many of the features that sparked fury on first release, like diminished privacy, the mini-feed, and face recognition. Zuckerberg played the long game; he didn't just revolutionize online sharing, he revolutionized our attitude toward it.

The man doesn't care what you think. While many CEOs are more inclined to the quick buck, Zuckerberg's indifference to money "is almost pathological," Time wrote in its 2010 Person of the Year profile. Perhaps he is so liked, because his motives seem pure. As Zuckerberg told the magazine: "I just want to focus on what we're doing."



More than anything, Zuckerberg has nailed the fundamental secret to popularity: Not caring whether you're popular. Certainly, Zuckerberg didn't become a success because he was the guy everyone wanted at the party. In her recent book, "Lean In," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recounts a piece of advice Zuckerberg gave her after six months on the job:

"Sheryl, you care too much about being liked. You are trying to please everyone all day long and you can't do it. And if you never say anything that anyone disagrees with, you're not going to say anything at all."

It turns out, people like what Zuckerberg has to say.

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