A Leader’s Personal Brand

Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon recently got fired. Here is a copy of his parting letter to the Groupon employees, courtesy of a posting on February 28, 2013 by John C. Abell, consulting editor at Linked in.

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.



The letter speaks volumes about an important part of Andrew’s personal Brand. What does he deliver and how does he deliver it? What experience, what results does he create for his people?

Obviously, I’m not talking about bottom line performance. He was fired for lack of it. I’m referring to his Brand as a person, as a leader, as someone whom people want to follow because of what he delivers.

His letter communicated character, integrity and a sense of responsibility. He was willing to be accountable – without making others share that inglorious spotlight. And he delivered a strong message, about caring for the best interests of customers, of not needing data in order to act with integrity – words to live by. He delivered all that with a candor and transparency that seems selfless and without a hidden agenda.

It makes me sad that someone who does the right thing stands out as a rare and admirable exception. Why do we find what should be normal to be extraordinary?

It’s too bad that that communication came in his farewell message. We need more of that kind of leadership, that kind of honesty and transparency when everything seems to be rolling along just fine and the shareholders are happy, and the company is growing and hiring.

And it’s especially too bad that Andrew’s letter and the personal Brand it demonstrates stands out like a lighthouse beacon over dark and empty waters because it is so needed, so singular, so welcome. What Andrew delivered should represent normalcy, not heroism.

Why don’t more leaders practice that kind of leadership regularly? Why?

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