What People Teach Us: Randi Zuckerberg And Calling Out Those Closest To Us

Leadership Lesson: If done right, challenging those closest to us in a public forum has benefits and demonstrates a credibility that might not be so obvious at first.

Recently, Randi Zuckerberg called out her brother Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder and CEO of social media giant Facebook, on his comments regarding Holocaust deniers using Facebook to power up their platform and spread their claims about the genocide that occurred under cloud of Nazi Germany.

Mark commented on the hate groups’ use of the platform he founded in a subdued manner that fell far short of condemning the beliefs of such groups, which was surprising considering he and his family are Jewish. His sister, as she states, felt compelled enough to comment on her brother’s slip and his failure to condemn the groups outright, noting her brother “could have chosen his words differently,” but that she herself is aware that no limit of social media platforms or exposure would make hate groups go away.

Even though the two Zuckerbergs are both prominent in their own rights, each successfully positioned at the forefront of technology and business, there’s a lesson to be learned in the steps that the older sister took to correct the younger brother: How do you challenge those closest to you?

Granted, we don’t know what their relationship actually looks like behind the scenes, but obviously that sibling connection paints a picture of close proximity.

Some may consider that family connection a sacred relationship, one that can’t be crossed, questioned, or challenged. Some may be put off by the public disagreement, but, as we know (and what is crucial), it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Challenging the thinking of someone close to us can make those people better, strengthen the relationship, and garner credibility in our favor from those on the outside looking in. It generally can work for any or all of the following reasons:

It’s not an attack…

Although she is strong in her beliefs, Zuckerberg’s challenge was not an attack on her brother’s character, and it did not necessarily diminish his personal value.

It’s not what you say but how you say it, right? So many people may get wound up when they get feedback of any kind. Most of the time, either they don’t understand it, or the person providing it is doing it in such a fashion that it’s more about their own ego and power than the empowerment and learning of the person in question.

It’s correcting a stance…

Her statement and approach were correcting her brother with common knowledge reinforced by her own personal journey and dedication to the cause. It was more of a request for reconsideration of a position.

When we challenge others, it’s best to do it out of respect for the facts instead of anchoring a charge in emotion.

It’s saving face in the present…

Because he made his statements in such a clumsy manner, leaving them wide-open to interpretation, in her actions, she called for him to reconsider and clarify his statement.

This process allows someone you trust, admire, and know deeply to adjust their image to what you know them to be or what you believe them to be capable of. You help them correct their course toward the positive instead of veering too far off into a course of misperception and self-mischaracterization.

…while sharpening them for the future…

Although Zuckerberg was called out for his words and positions before his sister stepped in, it was key to have that close, trusted source to him challenge his position as well.

When someone that close to you challenges you, you understand the urgency in the concerns of others more quickly. The severity of the situation and perception sinks in more quickly. Therefore, you can correct your actions today and consider your words more carefully for the future.

It demonstrates respect…

She voiced her concerns and disagreement with her brother’s position publicly and not veiled behind the scenes. She put it out there fully, in public — honest opinion shared.

There’s a certain sense of maturity shown of yourself, and respect for the person with whom you’re disagreeing demonstrated, when you can share your position so publicly. This approach signals to others that you believe the relationship is strong enough to withstand some disagreement or negative public optics.

It lends the relationship itself credibility…

With such a public challenge, Sister Zuckerberg demonstrated that familial ties are not above truth and what’s right. That anyone can and should be corrected when necessary.

This ability to stand on principal reflects one’s ability to speak truth to power – and there is “power” here. Relationships are powerful. Bound by blood, familial relationships are some of the strongest. People may expect siblings to stand side-by-side, no matter what. But, for instance, in this specific case, people now know that the older sibling will call it like she sees it going forward and hold those around her accountable, no matter how close they are. People will know, going into the future, that there is a semblance of checks and balances, regardless of whether or not it is a formal process.

Related Post: How Far Down Will You Go With The Ship,
If You Don’t Speak Truth To Power?


So do you challenge those around you? Do you asked to be challenged when it’s called for?

Some may say such challenges should be done in private. For instance, the challenge by an employee of a boss comes to mind. But, even in those situations, it still comes down to how you say what you have to say.

If you say it in the tone where you’re challenging the argument and not the person, information and not someone’s ego, for the sake of the mission and not to look better than others, what’s the big deal?

It’s only a big deal in environments where challenges are not welcome.

These types of challenges are possible, but the environment for such a conversation and input has to be established and opened well in advanced. If leaders establish such an environment beforehand, everyone gets better — and sooner rather than later.

The organization gets better sooner.

Colleagues get sharper sooner.

Leaders build and fortify their environment sooner.

So, step up! Challenge and be challenged.



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