Mayer also wouldn’t have gotten the job if she wasn’t lucky, but even though she has folks like Katie Couric, a potentially very powerful visibility tool, (Couric single handedly took out Sarah Palin) she doesn’t seem to be able to use them effectively.
Finally, Yahoo’s board knew Mayer was both inexperienced as a CEO and inexperienced in media, but it didn’t wrap her with the experts she needed to be successful and Mayer still acts like a novice in the media industry. Even worse, the most experienced executive she had at the start, Ross Levinsohn, was forced out of the company early on, critically damaging the quality of her team. So she is light on knowledge and doesn’t have a team that closes that gap.
The end result is that it’s not surprising she is at risk and it is surprising she is still there.
In selecting a CEO, the best candidate is a combination of competence in these categories, the ability of the board to close any gaps, and the willingness of the candidate to do what it takes to make the needed personal and staffing changes timely. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were meticulously recrafted from what they were at the start and this willingness and hard work founded both of their successes. Often either a new CEO fails because they are unwilling to change certain things, wrongly thinking a list of critical capabilities is optional.
It is the board’s responsibility to assure this doesn’t happen, and Yahoo is yet another example of a board that didn’t do its job. But maybe, if they learn from this lesson, the next CEO doesn’t have to be a failure and they likely could still save Mayer. I just doubt either of these outcomes is likely.