Monday, November 9, 2009
So What Does Google Think??
So we are getting to the end of the wire... and as we are all trying to come up with our own models of leadership and opinions of whether or not it can be taught, I thought why not look into what Google thinks about this. We ask Google everything else, right?
I was fortunate enough to come across an interview conducted on August 18, 2009 with Evan Wittenberg, head of Global Leadership Development at Google. He makes some very interesting and intriguing comments about Google's opinion of leadership and asks many of the same questions we have asked throughout this course. Overall, Wittenberg describes Google's opinion of leadership with the following: "It's not authority based leadership. It's credibility, it's innovation, it's influence. It's the kinds of things anybody at any level could use to be more effective and help Google." Their view of leadership aligns with the values of their organization (Burns, Selznick, Heifitz). He goes on to say this is possible because everyone is dedicated and passionate about the vision. (Sashkin, 1989). This idea reminds me of Choi's model of leadership (Choi, 2006). It comes down to envisioning, empowerment, and empathy. Google focuses on all three and they put that responsibility in the hands of every employee. Their focus on the importance of teamwork and trust in each other models elements of servant leadership. All employees are servant leaders by serving first. (Greenleaf, 1991). They are serving each other and ultimately all serving Google's mission first above all else.
So with this model of leadership, what do they provide for development? Well interestingly enough, nothing is mandatory. They do not make anyone go to any of the programs they offer. They want their employees to be motivated to attend on their own so they really believe in the value of the program. McGregor would agree with their opinion to not pick out a select few of employees (McGregor, 1966). So what do they teach? Wittenberg claims they create "lab environments" where employees can come and build on their own personal leadership capabilities by teaching each other and sharing cases and problems from their day-to-day work. At the end of the day, Wittenberg says that the self-awareness piece is one of the most critical to personal leadership growth. It is even the foundational core to their view of leadership development. He says, "You cannot lead anyone until you know yourself..." What does everyone think about Google's decision to not make it mandatory?
I think what is important to notice is everything seems to be aligned at Google; the leadership, the culture, the vision, the values, and the work.
I will leave you with this quote from Wittenberg that says a lot of what they believe in regards to leadership. " Every Googler, every one of our 20,000 people, can act as a leader." In organizations, do you believe this is really true? Can everyone be a leader? Well, Google sure does seem to think so, and I do believe I agree.
Here is the link to the interview: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/08/18/VI2009081801485.html