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The evolution of Mark Zuckerberg as a leader

The Facebook CEO transformed into an articulate leader this week, one who has the potential to take the social-networking giant to the next level.

Mark Zuckerberg aced his interview at TechCrunch Disrupt.
James Martin/CNET

With Facebook's stock price crashing and employee morale sinking, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stepped up and delivered a home run he would never have been able to hit even just a year ago.

As you may know, Zuckerberg has been under fire the last few months for Facebook's plummeting stock price. A darling of Wall Street before its IPO, Facebook fell to half its IPO price in just a few months. As a result, a growing chorus of critics have called for new leadership at Facebook. Some have even called for Zuckerberg himself to resign.

While I've always thought that the calls for Zuckerberg's resignation were extraordinarily premature, I have been critical of Zuckerberg for not focusing on creating revenue-generating product and for not publicly commenting on Facebook's stock price or soothing the market's fears about the company's future.

Zuckerberg finally answered his critics this week, though, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. During a wide-ranging interview with CrunchFund's Michael Arrington, Zuckerberg addressed everything from the company's plummeting stock price to its plans for mobile. I won't go through everything Zuckerberg discussed, but almost every part of the business was talked about. Arrington asked a lot of tough but fair questions.

By all accounts, Zuckerberg did a spectacular job. As a result, shares of Facebook have surged by 13 percent since Tuesday night, from $19.42 to $22 per share. While it's still nowhere near $38 per share (Facebook's IPO price), it's a clear step in the right direction.

As I sat in the audience listening to Zuckerberg speak, I couldn't help but compare his performance to his previous interviews. I remember him stumbling when he said the iPad wasn't a mobile device. And I especially remember when AllThingsD editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg grilled him so hard that he started sweating on stage.

Seriously, it wasn't pretty. See for yourself:


The Mark Zuckerberg I saw on stage at Disrupt didn't look anything like the guy who squirmed at the D Conference just two years prior. No, this Zuckerberg was poised, confident, and articulate. Sure, he spoke fast, but only because he was clearly excited by Facebook's future prospects (side note: the interview was Facebook's idea, I've been told).

Zuckerberg was able to simultaneously rally the Facebook troops and Wall Street with just his words. This is something he would never have been able to do even just a year ago. He wasn't born with Steve Jobs' onstage charm -- instead, he had to work up to the comfort level he exuded on stage at Disrupt.

I believe we're witnessing a new chapter in Zuckerberg's maturation. He was once a hacker who had to become a CEO. Now he's a CEO who's transforming into an articulate leader -- the type a public company with sky-high expectations needs.