In a post on his public Facebook account on Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that he plans to take two months of paternity leave when his second daughter is born. Zuckerberg made headlines in 2015 when he announced that he would take two months off after the birth of his first daughter Max, and shortly thereafter expanded Facebook’s generous parental leave policy to employees around the world. That policy gives all full-time employees, regardless of their gender, up to four months of leave, which they may take at any time in the first year after their child is born or adopted.
Zuckerberg said he would take his first month of leave as soon as the baby is born (he and his wife Priscilla Chan have not publicly disclosed her due date, but he wrote on Friday that the baby was “coming soon”), and would take the month of December off as well. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Financial Officer David Wehner will be the highest-ranking executives at Facebook in his absence.
In his post, Zuckerberg emphasized the importance of new parents—mothers and fathers alike—taking time to bond with their babies at the start of their lives. “At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it’s good for the entire family,” he wrote. “And I’m pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back.”
The 32-year-old CEO won praise for taking time off after his first daughter’s birth, and is getting similarly good press this time around, because in doing so he is setting an example of involved fatherhood and letting Facebook employees, particularly men, know that it is OK and even desirable for them to take parental leave.
Every Friday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathers employees at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters for an all-hands talk and Q&A that is recorded and broadcast to thousands of other Facebookers in remote offices across the US and around world. The topics of these chats are wide-ranging and surprisingly open, Recode’s Kurt Wagner writes, covering everything from unreleased products, to strategic initiatives, to Zuckerberg’s thoughts about Facebook’s competitors and even its board members—the kind of stuff tech reporters (or competitor CEOs) would kill for.
Yet despite all the juicy details contained in these talks, they very rarely leak outside the company. How, Wagner wonders, does Zuckerberg manage to be so candid with his employees without compromising Facebook’s information security? The answer, it seems, has a lot to do with how much employees appreciate having a direct connection with their CEO, which engenders a deep respect for the need to keep these communications internal:
“That level of transparency is alarming when you see it at first,” said one former employee. “But there’s something [special] about knowing you’re getting an unfettered response.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg returned to work last week after taking two months’ paternity leave to care for his newborn baby daughter Max. Zuckerberg’s decision to take so much time away from the office—though he could have taken twice as much, per Facebook’s parental leave policy—earned him a lot of credit for setting an example of work-life balance and signaling to his employees that it was actually OK for new parents to take advantage of that benefit. Entrepreneur’s editorial director Ray Hennessey wonders, however, just how “off” he really was:
For a guy who was supposedly not working, he got a lot of work in. … Even last Sunday he was working, announcing a new data center in Clonee, Ireland. These are just the work functions we know about because he posted them on Facebook. We don’t know the number of phone calls to the office, the can’t-miss meetings, the day-to-day decision-making. I would bet Zuckerberg’s last cent that he stayed connected and stayed involved. It’s his company. It was, until the stork showed up with Max, his baby. He created it, shaped it, developed it. He is a leader with a sense of responsibility to his brand, his team members, his customers and his world. There is no “taking off” from that.
Hennessey is quick to note that this is “in no way a criticism,” and that Zuckerberg’s experience “shows the push and pull that comes from having a family and running a business.” I think it also gets to a bigger question: How should people take parental leave in the digital era? I think my wife was checking her work email a few weeks after our daughter was born in an attempt to find adult conversation. Is that bad?
What is good role modeling for leaders on this issue? Drop us a line and let us know what you think.
If you haven’t heard about Mark Zuckerberg’s recent pledge to give away 99% of his Facebook shares to social initiatives, or when Gravity Payment’s CEO Dan Price established a minimum wage of $70,000 at his company in April and took a huge pay cut to pull it off, well, you probably don’t read the news, but you definitely don’t use Facebook or Twitter. These stories went viral almost immediately after they broke: these days, tales of altruistic CEOs Robin Hooding themselves are all but guaranteed to. In the Washington Post, Jena McGregor asks, “Why are we so fascinated by stories of do-good bosses?”:
[T]he best explanation for why stories like Price’s go so viral may be that it hits on many of the nerve centers marketers say prompt us to share. These include being part of the zeitgeist (think of all the discussion going on about income inequality), a benefit to the social good (lower-paid people getting more money) and simply a great conversation starter (there’s just enough controversy over the concept of a $70,000 minimum wage to spark a heated debate).
Her last point has been particularly interesting in the case of Zuckerberg. Almost immediately after he made his announcement there was a backlash, questioning whether it was a PR stunt, a tax avoidance trick, or in some other way self-serving. Many people simply find it hard to believe that CEOs, especially billionaire CEOs, can really be altruistic. Whether this is true or not, that the perception exists is still an important lesson for chief executives, who are now more than ever the public faces of their companies. CEOs need to recognize and anticipate that even the most genuine charitable endeavors will face intense public scrutiny and will probably be misconstrued in some quarters. In some ways, this is a good thing: Public and media scrutiny create a strong incentive for very wealthy people to make good choices about what causes they put their money behind. On the other hand, that alone is not enough. CEOs who make expensive charitable gestures should be prepared to defend those choices from critics, even if the criticism is entirely unreasonable.