Jun 022011
Leadership: By  J. Keith Dunbar,  Sunday, April 24, 2011

Google and new CEO Larry Page have been making news in last couple of months both purposely and inadvertently around the topic of leadership. It has provided a near constant case study of leadership in large organizations. The question is what does it mean and what is the impact of these activities? If you are a big financial services firm…you are only interested in the bottomline quarter-to-quarter. If you are an employee…you want to know what it all means to you and your work and life.

First, there was the identification of the 8 Point Plan to Help Managers Improve + 3 Pitfalls. Google put its collective data mining and analytic capabilities to task to scientifically identify what good mangers need to do to be effective leaders, codenamed Project Oxygen. The NY Times discussed it and its implications in a lot of detail. A number of people have written about what Project Oxygen developed, so I don’t really have anything to share. It is a solid list and one that many organizations would do well to base the creation of the right leadership culture.

Next, Larry Page took over as CEO from Eric Schmidt. A surprise move that many felt signaled not so much a new direction, but an attempt to “Go Back to the Future” by creating the conditions and culture needed to return to Google’s start-up roots. Many people that are in leadership roles have a vision of what they think success is and could be like in the future. Larry Page is no different. He has taken charge to drive the Google future…What is that you may ask?

Larry Page has been very direct and quick to point towards a future that he thinks Google has to win to maintain growth and that is social. By doing this, Larry Page is exhibiting the behaviors that Project Oxygen outline, specifically these four by sending the note to the employees.

1. Empower your team and don’t micromanage. Give freedom to employees in carrying out tasks, but make yourself available for advice.

2. Be productive and results-oriented. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to minimize roadblocks. Don’t be afraid to step in and give direction when needed.

3. Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Encourage open dialogue and listen to the concerns of your employees.

4. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Involve your team in setting goals and identifying the group’s vision.

He is telling employees what is important, but not how to get there. He is helping them to prioritize their activities around a major goal. He being a good communicator in a major transition. And finally, Larry Page is setting a clear vision for the team.

Finally, like many new leaders…Larry Page adjusted the deck chairs on his leadership team…significantly. I see the same thing in many organizations. A new leader comes in and desires to shake things up by pushing the old guard to the side and bringing in new people to the leadership team that basically…the new leader thinks they can trust. My career experiences are that new leaders tend to put in people much like themselves. So tactical task doers…usually put in other tactical, task doers and don’t look for the balance in Senior Leadership Team strengths required to have a successful team.

The other challenge is that by moving people in to these new very important leadership positions at Google or any other organization…are you putting them there because they are good, even great leaders, or because they are great technical experts. It makes a huge difference in the ability of organizations. Many of us have seen the great technical expert that understands their job and are very good at whatever that is…but can’t lead people. It demoralizes and eventually saps the strength out of teams.

So as Larry Page continues to bring his new Senior Leadership Team together…considering the Project Oxygen outcomes and ensuring they are “walking the talk” in relation to the identified behaviors will be important.

Key to success for Google is how they will take the next step and measure the behaviors outlined in Project Oxygen. Measure it and make adjustments to building the best-in-class leadership capability that Google will need for the future.


J. Keith Dunbar is a Fearless Transformational Global Leader…Creator of Talent, Leadership Capability, and Culture Change…He can be found connecting and sharing knowledge on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: JKeithDunbar
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jkeithdunbar
DNA of Human Capital: http://dna-of-humancapital.blogspot.com/

The opinions or views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the Defense Intelligence Agency.


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