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Google insights on the emergent leader

Wednesday, April 2, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Google has been using Big Data analytics to learn what works and doesn’t work with its 48,000 employees in recruiting, management and leadership. Adam Bryant, a New York Times reporter who interviews CEOs for his Corner Office column, interviewed Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of “people operations” for Google and provides significant insights into the changing face of leadership.

Google discovered that it had been using techniques to recruit and select new hires that were not well correlated with success on the job.  What they found was that a person’s GPA, where they went to school and even facility with the Google brainteasers they used for testing acumen, were not predictors of success. Expertise, except in select technical areas, was also not a useful predictor.

Google found that the primary attributes of success were emergent leadership skills and the desire and ability to learn. Intellectual curiosity, the capacity for pulling together and processing disparate bits of information to arrive at an answer or understanding, is more important than possessing specific knowledge. Most of the time employees with intellectual curiosity and leadership skills will reach the same answer as an “expert” having far greater experience and, at times, the “non-expert” will come up with something totally new. Furthermore, humility is needed for learning. Many successful people make a fundamental attribution error; taking credit for successes, believing it is due to their own skill, and then not taking responsibility for failures. Without humility, one cannot learn from mistakes.

Emergent leadership predicts success. Emergent leadership does not derive “power” from a position or degree, but instead the leader guides the process in the right direction through competence in dealing with social situations. As a team member, the emergent leader knows when to step in and lead, whether or not they have an official position. Then, when the time is right, they step back and let someone else take over the leadership role. Mr. Bock told the Times: “to be an effective leader… you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

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