Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Dubya to Zuckerberg: We Have So Much in Common!

Two awkward powerful dudes came together today, and demonstrated that they have a lot in common. They were former U.S. President George W. Bush and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Bush’s visit to Facebook was his only stop in Silicon Valley on his current autobiographical book tour, a coup for the six-year-old company. Zuckerberg had kind words for the former president, telling him he “always admired” him for sticking to his guns, despite criticism.

Bush–who said his technology tools of choice are a BlackBerry, an iPad and “the Facebook”–told Zuckerberg he chose to speak at Facebook, “cause you got a lot of people paying attention to us and I’m trying to sell books.”

Perhaps it also had something to do with a friend in common: Ted Ullyot, current VP and general counsel at Facebook and former deputy assistant to Bush, who helped facilitate the discussion, which was in front of an audience of employees in Palo Alto, Calif. and broadcast live on Facebook to an audience of about 6,500.

The conversation was jovial, with Bush making fun of Zuckerberg for his interest in education reform, despite the fact he hasn’t graduated from college. When Zuckerberg pressed Bush on his ideas about improving education, Bush suggested they should do a “joint venture.”

Recognizing their commonalities as widely criticized leaders, Bush offered Zuckerberg some management advice:

Don’t bow to criticism: “If you believe in what you’re doing, then the criticism means nothing. The worst thing you can do as a leader is change who you are.”

On team dynamics: “I believe in creative tension, but the key for a leader is to understand when it gets out of hand and make the tough call.”

More specifically, Bush said, “At the end of my first term, creative tension became creative destruction. I made the decision I couldn’t manage it any more and decided to change entire national security team.”

Keep your door open: “It’s important for a leader to give people access…It’s part of building a culture of mutual participation.”

It’s not about you: Bush said he was proud of creating “an environment where people weren’t serving me, but were serving the country first and foremost.”

Have a vision: “You can’t lead, by the way, unless you know where you’re going,” Bush said, telling the famously strong-willed Zuckerberg, “This really sounds like I’m pandering to you, doesn’t it?”

You can view the full interview here.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle