The first book that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has chosen for his bi-monthly book club, “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím, has already sold out on Amazon.
Zuckerberg invited 30 million to join his new book club and received 80,000 likes on Facebook. Some pundits are questioning whether Zuckerberg might equal or surpass the influence Oprah has had with her book endorsements. Oprah, however, has far less of a business reach than her new book-reviewing rival.
This whole situation makes an old and too-often cited quote by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (Lord Acton) explode in my head:
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
What doesn’t get quoted much at all is the line Lord Acton said that followed it:
“Great men are almost always bad men.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like and admire both Oprah and Zuckerberg immensely. Their brainpower is almost frightening and their accomplishments beyond comprehension for most mere mortals.
However, it seems to be a time for serious caution (on both of their parts). The books Zuckerberg chooses to endorse will be purchased and read by thousands of people, if not tens of thousands.
Whatever is in those books in Zuckerberg’s case will nuzzle into the consciousness of benevolent and evil leaders alike. It will be repeated, taught, exampled and amplified. In a fairly short time, he might change the way people think—about leadership, about living, and about what’s right.
Be careful, Zuckerberg. That’s a lot of power. So far you’ve used it wisely. But you have enormous potential to change the world, and so far it looks like you are a good man.
If Lord Acton was right that power corrupts, stop and assess the power you have and your potential for power. Watch for signs of corruption. Ask for feedback from those you trust, but the truth is, with the power you have now, few will ever tell you what they really think ever again. You can, however, listen for hints, and not just of whether your power is turning absolute…but whether it is corrupting you.
Please don’t waste the enormous opportunity you have to be a great—and very good man.
Thank you for listening.