8 Leadership Lessons from Facebook’s First Decade

Facebook has been around for a decade now.

Imagine that.

It’s changed the way hundreds of millions of people live every day, and whether you’re on Facebook or not, it’s impacted how you live.

While the stats are interesting and still a bit staggering, the first decade of Facebook also gives us leadership insights into what happens to any organization as it grows and develops.

The insights can help you learn what you can expect and how to adapt in your organization as well.

8 Facebook Leadership Lessons That Apply To Your Organization

Okay…the lessons here might seem a bit harsh, but truth is a good teacher. And sometimes when you look closely at why some things work and others don’t, you learn.

So I’m offering these lessons (and inviting you to leave a comment with others) in the hopes that they will make you and I better leaders.

Ready? Set. Go…

Great ideas seem dumb…until they seem brilliant
Chances are you dismissed Facebook before you joined it. And you mocked Twitter (who cares what you’re eating or doing every hour of the day)? And you’ve rolled your eyes at all the selfies and sunsets on Instagram.

Fine. But those three companies have changed the world while millions mocked them.

Translation: your greatest ideas are going to seem dumb until they suddenly seem brilliant. And you won’t know until you try, and until you persevere.

People who do nothing will always criticize people who do something
If you’re an innovator, you’ve probably also heard the mocking of people who say things like “I could have thought of that” or “that’s so simple anyone could have done it.”

Except they didn’t do it.

Most people sit on the couch eating potato chips while criticizing people who make a contribution.

People who do nothing will always criticize people who do something. Don’t let them grind you down.

Even in a new venture, almost everything continues to change
To study Facebook’s first decade it to study change:
  • From a college social network to global ubiquity.
  • From a web based browser to a mobile platform.
  • From a text based service to an image driven platform.
  • From a personal platform to a mixed personal and business platform.
  • From a single company to 43 acquisitions, most of which, other than Instagram, you’ve never heard of.
Even in a brand new venture, everything changes all the time…if you’re successful.

If your organization is new, you’re not immune from change. Keep growing, keep changing. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. And if you’re 50 years old and in decline, now you know one more reason why you might be in decline.

Every change brings new opposition…and new growth
Remember the “I hate the new Facebook” campaigns that erupted for a while? Or the “bring back the old Facebook” cries that people post?

People hate change.

Until then they get used to it.

My guess is if you got the kind of opposition to change Facebook has seen to anything you’ve introduced, you would have reversed the decision by now. Which is exactly what you should not do.

I explain why leaders cave to change (and how to avoid it) in my book Leading Change Without Losing It.

What is new for you is normal for someone younger than you
If you’re over 35, Facebook might still seem ‘new’ to you. I’ve been on it since 2007 and distinctly remember life without it.

If you’re 20, Facebook has almost always been around. If you’re 15, you don’t remember life without it (although you probably rarely use it…see Point 7.)

Many organizational leaders get to their prime in their 40s and 50s. As long as you keep of thinking of things like social media as ‘new’ you will sound irrelevant to other generations. Adapt quickly. Learn everything you can. Adapt to the new normal, and you will position your organization or church for future impact.

What happens online changes what happens in real life
People break up, get married, connect, reconnect and stay on top of life because of what happens online and on Facebook.

Facebook (and constant online access) have changed things are routine as face to face etiquette as Tim Elmore has pointed out in this very helpful article. Etiquette like this was unnecessary and almost unthinkable in 1994 or 2004.

As much as churches and organizations think of online as a ‘supplement’ to what they do, I believe almost all of us are underestimating the transformative power of what happens online. Organizations that behave like online is as real as real life will set the agenda for the future, and will change people’s lives (their real lives).

The presence of some demographics alienates others
It’s fascinating that in a decade Facebook has gone from something exclusively for college kids, to something embraced by early adopters, to normative for teenagers, to being now increasingly ignored by under 25s.

As soon their parents and grandparents got Facebook, teens started ignoring it and went to ‘cooler’ platforms like twitter (where you probably will never guess their user names anyway), Instagram, Snapchat and others.

As a leader you simply need to be aware that sometimes, the presence or undue influence of one demographic will alienate another. Aged separated venues in a place like church still have their role.

The pace of change is faster than you think.
Facebook has done a great job of adapting to shifting realities. And sometimes, they’ve provoked the shift themselves. They are constantly changing, evolving, growing, acquiring, and morphing.

My guess is if you look at your church or organization, you’ve changed very little in the last decade.

And that may be the problem.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a honest video about Facebook from Tripp and Tyler. While it might make you smile, to their credit, both Tripp and Tyler and Facebook are profiting from our amusement with it. Think about that.

What have you learned from Facebook’s first decade? Leave a comment.

By Carey Nieuwhof



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8 Leadership Lessons from Facebook’s First Decade
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