The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: “Mark Zuckerberg: Bad Leadership in the Metaverse”

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On November 11th, 2021, Aziz gave a presentation criticizing Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership in his firm’s latest venture into the Metaverse. In his presentation, Aziz enumerated three leadership theories: the great man theory, the transactional theory, and the servant theory. The great man theory posits that great leaders are born with extraordinary leadership traits, so they are entitled to lead over everyone else. In this theory, the leaders are the ones that solely determine the fate of a mission, while the impact of the followers is deemed negligible.

The transactional theory focuses on the exchanges that take place between leaders and followers. This oftentimes can be translated to leaders using money and status to exchange for their subordinates’ obedience, talent, and hard work. Aziz also briefly mentioned transformational leadership, which puts less emphasis on the exchange and more on the mutual strengthening of motivation among leaders and followers. But he didn’t explain how transformational leadership fits within the transactional theory.

Finally, the servant theory argues that the greatest leaders first seek out to serve those they lead. Great leaders, the theory maintains, have a natural disposition to strive to make people around them better, wiser, and healthier. And in many cases, the best way to make these improvements for others is by leading. The servant leaders are motivated at the core by their desire to help other people.

Aziz went on to denounce some of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest leadership behaviors in public. Aziz seems to believe that Zuckerberg is a subscriber of the great man theory, as he often acts in an entitled way in public. I am not entirely in agreement with Aziz here, as the Zuckerberg I’ve seen in public is considerate and intelligent. The privacy crisis that Facebook is facing is a very complex issue, and I don’t think any tech executives would handle the crisis any better.

Overall, the three theories of leadership help us frame our approach to leadership situations. Once we settle on one theory as our ideal leadership mode, we would have a benchmark to compare our behaviors to. It keeps us anchored and checked as a leader in those often volatile and challenging situations.


-Written by Tianhao Zhang, Class of 2022 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences