Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world. It is a highly profitable business which is growing very rapidly. However, there are issues and scandals recently about its ethical practices and it is believed that the company is compromising ethical practices for profitability. The biggest scandal came about American Presidential Elections in 2016. Cambridge Analytica is the firm responsible for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. It used data from 87 million users for propaganda purpose and for posts supporting Donald Trump. Due to a policy of Facebook, up to 2015, its marketing partners could have its user’s personal data for marketing purpose. However, later Facebook changed the policy and asked its marketing partners to delete the data. But it never followed them properly and claimed that none of its marketing partners have any user data and that it does not provide any user data to the marketers. However, later on, it is discovered that Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica has the user’s data but it took no step to ensure it deletes it and does not use in some way to manipulate the users. (Browne 2018)
Apparently, this ethical issue prevails at Facebook because its focus is on growth and profitability and it does not have any clear objectives apart from profitability and growth. As a result, issues like user privacy and user’s waste of time and lack of productivity due to Facebook are quite common. However, apparently, Facebook tries to cover up these issues instead of solving them. The current essay will look at the issues from the point of view of the CEO and Chairman of Facebook, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg and suggest the ways he can become an ethical leader. The essay will also evaluate the obstacles that may make it difficult for Mr. Zuckerberg to become an ethical leader and suggest strategies and contingency plan to fulfill his objective. In the end, the essay will provide a summary and conclusion and a brief about the lesson learned from the case. (Browne 2018)
With regard to CSR and Ethics, Mr. Zuckerberg can have several personal objectives, they are,
Choose to be an ethical leader,
Choose to not get involved.
Choose to be an ethical leader and make necessary compromises with unethical leaders.
In this regard, the ideal objective to follow is choosing to become an ethical leader. This is because he is the leader of the organization. Being a leader of an organization, he should set an example of ethical conduct that other people in the organization can follow. Moreover, being a highly successful entrepreneur, he is idealizing by numerous people around the globe and so if he does not behave ethically, others in the firm, as well as his followers, would do the same which would have negative consequences for the society.
The option of choosing not to get involved is also not appropriate. This is because he is the leader of the organization and responsible for its corporate governance, he needs to not only tackle ethical issues but also guide others in this regard.
The third option is also not appropriate. This is because Choose to be an ethical leader and make necessary compromises with unethical leaders. This would again set a wrong example for his followers and so is not a good choice. Hense, the objective of Mr. Zuckerberg should be to uphold a higher level of ethical values and be an ethical leader.
There are individual obstacles with regard to ethical leadership as well. Zuckerberg had not completed his degree when he started his business and may not be necessarily trained in ethical leadership and behaviors. He needs to get enough training and education in ethics and should learn to not compromise his integrity as from the case of Cambridge Analytica it is proved that he does not hold higher levels of integrity and compromise integrity for personal gain. He needs to remove this obstacle and should behave an ethical person having higher levels of integrity in all situations.
There are environmental obstacles as well. It feels that the Facebook has developed a sub-system of destructive, parasitic, win-win reciprocity and some sort of ethical corruption is also tolerated within the company. The company seems to behave very nice and connecting people whereas, in essence, it is connecting people to use those relations for earning money and even compromise user privacy for profitability. Being the CEO and Chairman and largest beneficiary and shareholder of the company, changing these environmental issues may result in significant costs but he has to overcome these obstacles in order to be an ethical leader.
there are many organizational obstacles as well. Most importantly, there does not seem any emphasis on ethics and the entire focus of the organization seems to be on profitability and growth and when money keeps on flowing, they tend to ignore many issues. This should be changed as well and ideally, Zuckerberg should take a driving seat to change this scenario and emerge as an ethical leader.
Macro Ethics/ CSR leadership Strategies
Mr. Zuckerberg can achieve ethical leadership objective by using several macro ethics leadership strategies, however, the most suitable are as follows,
i. Vision and value-based tactics
ii. Power based ethics leadership
iii. Top-down and bottom-up power based win-lose methods
Although Mr. Zuckerberg is in a position to apply all these strategies to achieve his objective of being an ethical leader, however, vision and value-based tactics is the best strategy for this purpose. This is because it would change the organizational culture and everyone would start behaving ethically as it would be the new norm of the organization. Power based ethics leadership may also achieve similar benefits but it would not impact the culture as such and it would mainly rule that people would follow rather than because it is the right thing to do. Top-down and bottom-up power based win-lose methods also do the same as people would comply with the ethical guidance without considering why it is right to do so. So, the best macro strategy for ethical leadership is “Vision and value-based tactics”.
Then, there are three more suitable micro strategies under the vision and value-based tactics that Mr. Zuckerberg can choose in order to become an ethical leader. They are,
i. Mission and values articulation.
ii. Mission-based internal and external networking.
iii. Mission-based stakeholder relations and public relations.
Of these micro strategies, mission and values articulation is the best suitable strategy. This is because having mission and values strictly adhering to modern acceptable ethical codes means the people down the line will adhere to ethical values and will take all relevant decision on the basis of that ethical values. It is also important to have ethical values because it would become part of the organizational culture and acceptable practice over time and everyone in the organization would be pressurized to behave ethically as it would be an acceptable norm within the organization.
Mission-based internal and external networking may also help in organization indulging in ethical practice if the mission is based on the ethical norms of the society. However, it would not mean that everyone would be pressurized to take ethical decisions and people in the organization may get involved in unethical decision making because it would result in personal gains. So this is not an as good option as the first micro leadership strategy.
Mission-based stakeholder relations and public relations would also be an important direction towards making company an ethical organization but it may not make Mr. Zuckerberg specifically as an ethical leader, albeit the company may be known as an ethical company. Moreover, as ethical practices would not be articulated within the values of the company and thus in the culture of the company, so there could still be unethical practices in the company. Thus, the best micro-strategy for Mr. Zuckerberg is to install ethical practices in the company through mission and values articulation.
Why may the Plan Fail?
Although there are not many chances of failure because the leader would articulate mission and values of the company on the basis of ethics and would be in a very strong position to enforce it on everyone within the company and the way company treats internal and external stockholder. However, still, it is possible that the plan does not work because the other members of the board of governors do not agree with Mr. Zuckerberg. In this case, a contingency plan is necessary.
In case the initial strategy for the leadership fails, Mr. Zuckerberg needs to have an alternative leadership strategy. In this case, the following three alternative macro-level strategies can be useful,
Top-down and bottom-up power based win-lose methods
Incentive-based win-win methods
Vision and values-based tactics
As vision and value-based methods would have already failed so it is less likely that it would be successful with some other macro strategy particularly if the board is not ready to cooperate. In this case, top-down and bottom-up power based win-lose methods may also not work appropriately because the people who are threatened to lose may quite the organization and so important talent of the organization may go waste. So these methods, although workable but may not be the best.
Now, Mr. Zuckerberg may try Incentive based win-win methods. They may be the best alternative option because no one is going to lose being ethical. The micro leadership strategy, in this case, would be” reasonable trade of different resources” so that all the internal stakeholders can be kept happy to accept the ethical values that Mr. Zuckerberg want to instill in the organization. The other possible strategies could be “a reasonable compromise between extremes” and “to the neediest” may not be best choices because they would require compromises. The compromise could demotivate the parties which had to compromise. Therefore, the best micro-ethics leadership strategy is ” reasonable trade of different resources”. It is expected to help Mr. Zuckerberg in becoming an ethical leader in case his primary macro and micro leadership strategies fail.
Conclusion and recommendations
Facebook is most popular social media platform in the world. However, it is failed on several occasions in protecting the privacy of the users and seems to be exploiting user’s data and privacy for monetary gain. One such scandal came in the shape of user privacy breach in 2016 when. Cambridge Analytica is the firm responsible for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. It used data from 87 million users for propaganda purpose and for posts supporting Donald Trump. Due to a policy of Facebook, up to 2015, its marketing partners could have its user’s personal data for marketing purpose. Moreover, it is blamed for other unethical practices as well as wasting the user’s time. Mark Zuckerberg would want to become an ethical leader. Although he would face individual, organizational and environmental obstacles he has to overcome these through personal grooming and training and development.
He can achieve his objective through the macro strategy of vision and values. Whereas, the micro leadership strategy of mission and values articulation is the best suitable strategy. This is because having mission and values strictly adhering to modern acceptable ethical codes means the people down the line will adhere to ethical values and will take all relevant decision on the basis of that ethical values. It is also important to have ethical values because it would become part of the organizational culture and acceptable practice over time and everyone in the organization would be pressurized to behave ethically as it would be an acceptable norm within the organization.
This essay shows us that larger a business is, large is the responsibility of the business to uphold the highest ethical standards and take care of all its stakeholders.
Browne, R. (2018). Facebook ‘concealed the truth’ of what it knew about Cambridge Analytica, lawmaker claims. CNBC. Retrieved 25 July 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/26/facebook-concealed-truth-of-cambridge-analytica-scandal-uk-mp-says.html