What Happened at Twitter?

CANNES, FRANCE - JUNE 20:  CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo speaks during The Twitter Seminar as part of Cannes Lions 59th International Festival of Creativity on June 20, 2012 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Francois G. Durand/Getty Images)

(Photo by Francois G. Durand/Getty Images)

The CEO of Twitter is Out – Do you know how to avoid the same mistakes?

Dick Costolo recently stepped down as the CEO of Twitter. The investors didn’t like what they were seeing – a stock price sliding 20% in the first quarter. So what went wrong here? I’ve identified 2 issues that caused Dick Costolo’s demise, along with tips for how you can avoid making the same mistakes:

1. Lack of Vision & Strategy

Twitter has struggled to define who they are, and who their customers are. Without a clear vision, a strong strategy cannot be successfully created, and a team will struggle to align their efforts toward a common goal. The investors and senior leaders were confused about where Dick Costolo was taking Twitter, and frankly, so was Costolo!

You can avoid this misstep by creating a clear, aspirational vision. The vision describes how and who the company impacts when it’s operating at the highest level. The vision flows from your mission and the values you commit to live by. Once the vision is clear, it must be understood at every level of the organization. When you have a clear vision, you will develop strategies that fully support the ultimate goal.

2. An Unstable and Ineffective Leadership Team

Because he wasn’t clear on vision and strategy, Costolo struggled to assemble an effective leadership team. He consistently made abrupt management changes, causing confusion for the executive team and an inability to execute strategy. He also made the fatal mistake of putting a friend in charge of a critical business unit, even though he was advised to look for someone who was better suited for the role.

Avoid this trap by creating a clear model for leadership. Refer back to your vision and strategy, then decide what leadership roles support it. Develop a job description that includes job functions, skill/experience requirements, and leadership behaviors necessary for success.   (Yes, CEOs – you need role clarity at every level, including executive and senior leadership.) The next critical step – – compare your internal talent against the requirements, and ensure that you only hire or promote people who meet the criteria.

Develop a clear vision, create an aligned strategy, and make sure your leaders can do the job. Do these things, and you will keep your CEO seat and lead your company to long-term success.


Deneen Grant is a Leadership Strategist, Culture Expert, and founder of Progressive Leadership Group. Progressive Leadership Group partners with CEOs and Senior Executives to put the Right Leaders, in the Right Roles, with the Right Skills – creating thriving, high performing, and profitable organizations.


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Posted in Business Failure, Leadership, Leadership Development, Strategy, Success