Google: Aspects of Leadership Strategy
Despite beginning as a small garage business, today, Google is a huge corporation, which is popular around the world. In order to guarantee further business development, Google’s administration is required to adhere to a range of leadership practices. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to analyze Google’s leadership strategy.
Organizational Context and Main Leadership Challenges
Today, Google is an American technology company, which realizes its professional activity around the globe, supplying Internet-related services and products. It is a public company, as it matches all the requirements for such a company type, and its shares could be purchased by the broad public (Tran, 2017). The company’s mission may be formulated in the following phrases: “make money without doing evil” and “work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun” (Schneider, 2019, para. 2). The company was established by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, and now it is a huge corporation with more them 12,00 employees with a hierarchical structure (Schneider, 2019). Schneider (2017) mark: “in one of the most anticipated Initial Public Offerings (IPO) Google raised $1.67 billion in August of 2004” (para. 1). Thus, currently, Google is a prosperous company, which has a great number of loyal clients and authority in the market.
However, there are some pressing concerns, which Google is required to address in the nearest future. According to Gaus (2019), the most considerable challenges for the company now are growing regulatory risks, skeptical employees, and further revenue growth. Gaus (2019) highlights: “a recent Wall Street Journal investigation found that contrary to some of the company’s claims, it routinely intervenes in search results, even favoring the results generated by big businesses” (para. 5). This fact may attract regulators’ attention and affect Google’s reputation significantly. In addition, although the amount of revenue is even more than expected, income per share is $10,12, compared to an estimated $12,42 (Gaus, 2019). The reason for it is accelerating operating expenditures increase and spending on marketing, sales, R&D, and other aspects. The third challenge is the fact that some employees disagree with Google’s directions and policies in many cases.
Strengths and Limitations of Current Leadership Styles in Google
Current Leadership Styles
Generally, the leadership structure in Google is similar to other companies in this field, though Google has unordinary leadership positions: Chief Culture Officer and Chief Internet Evangelist. As it has been mentioned earlier, the company has a hierarchical structure, and consequently, the decisions are made by a group of directors, which are passed to managers of different departments and other employees. Another Google unique trait is the 70/20/10 rule, which requires staff members to spend 70% of their working time on core business responsibilities, 20% on new ideas on core projects, and 10% on their interests (‘Google leadership principles at a glance’, 2020). This way, every worker is given space for their creativity, and their incentives may be implemented in the future (‘Google leadership principles at a glance’, 2020; Goleman, 2017). The new policies and implementation are not dictated by the administration, and incentives compete on their merits (Manimala, 2013). As this rule is equal for all departments, each employee, even a salesman and executive, is offered to express their ideas, which makes career promotion possible for them.
Despite the hierarchal structure that may remind of an authoritative leadership style, in fact, Google’s strategy is close to a participative approach. Generally, Tran (2017) highlights that Google takes into consideration the demands and abilities of its staff members. The company is aimed to provide its employees with comfortable conditions so that they feel no pressure and are supplied with the possibility to be creative. Google adheres to trait and contingency theories within their company operation, and generally, Google prefers to stick to modern approaches in leadership (Northouse, 2016; Manimala, 2013). Moreover, it may be mentioned that the company implements aspects of transformational leadership theory (Khan, 016). Each manager is supposed to be a coach for its workers, encouraging their further professional growth and highlighting their weak sides.
The described leadership strategy is applied both during normal and crises periods, though in the second case, there is a likelihood of situational changes. An illustrative example could be the current crisis, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, when Google attempted to help the U.S. governments and the population despite having special contracts. Google introduced an incentive to create a website for searching for information about coronavirus tests (Newton, 2020). A significant amount of attention was also paid to employees’ safety at the workplace and avoiding reduction of personnel, which matches Google’s basic orientation on its staff members’ comfort.
The current participative leadership strategy, promoted by Google, has its advantages. As it has been mentioned above, employees of all departments are supplied with the possibility to elaborate their own ideas and express them. Thus, the administration can gather a range of perspectives on the same problem and find the most sufficient and relevant solution. Career promotion also becomes available for all employees of the company, which makes Google a more attractive workplace.
Participative leadership strategy helps establish a healthy working environment, which also makes Google popular among people, seeking employment. An opportunity to express the personal opinion and propose own ideas creates a perception that the contribution of each worker is valued. This stimulates the feeling of devotedness to their workplace, as employees are confident that they may receive career promotions for their prominent decision and abilities (Shonk, 2021). Moreover, they become more engaged in Google’s operation and its future, proposing a range of developmental ideas.
Furthermore, Google appreciates managers, who can both fulfill their working duties and be wise coaches for their colleagues. This transformational approach contributes to further professional development of staff members, as managers motivate them and help them acquire new skills and in-depth professional knowledge (‘How to develop Google’s top 7 leadership competencies, no date; Schedlitzki and Edwards, 2018). This approach results in establishing a healthy working environment with competent employees, which guarantees the company’s growth in the long run.
Another strength of the transformational leadership style implies the fact that employees are treated as individuals. Managers take into consideration the personnel’s needs, abilities, talents, and ambitions (Khan, 2016). Their directions are aimed not only to cope with organizational tasks, but also to benefit workers in achieving their professional purposes. They contain relevant advice and essential support, which increases personal growth and allows employees to realize themselves at the workplace (Martin, 2015). Therefore, Google is among the most attractive companies for potential staff members.
Despite all the positive sides, there are some limitations to the current leadership strategy of Google. According to Shonk (2021), “in July 2016, Time reported that at Google, “69% percent of its employees are now male, while 31% are female” (para. 4). She also claims: “only 19% of Google’s technical roles are held by women, while 81% of them are held by men” (Shonk, 2021, para. 4). Google’s leaders intend to promote women more and address the problem of underestimation of African Americans and Hispanics (Shonk, 2021). Although it is a pressing social concern, such an approach affects leaders’ decisions significantly, which prevents them from treating each employee or candidate fairly and equally. This fact may have a negative impact on the working environment within the company, as leaders will not notice really prominent staff members. Moreover, being an extreme approach for coping with women, African Americans, and Hispanics’ underestimation, it may worsen Google’s reputation in general.
Even though the participative leadership style supplies Google with innovative decisions, it may have some limitations as well. The process of reviewing all ideas proposed by employees and diving into them requires a long period of time, which prevents the company from sufficient rapid response to unexpected situations (Bratton, 2020). For instance, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Google was incapable of coping with a relatively easy task, which was elaborating an application for tracing COVID-19 infection contacts (Vota, 2020). While evaluating the proposed ideas and choosing the most effective one, the administration may lose the best moment to take action.
Although a variety of approaches to solving one problem implies the strength of the participative leadership style, it also presents its weakness. In case a great number of people have different perspectives on coping with the pressing concern, there is a high likelihood of conflict arising between them (Bratton, 2020). Occasionally, such disagreement may aggravate the problem instead of solving it. It may also result in separating within the corporation, which will not contribute to Google’s growth.
In addition, the transformational leadership style used in Google maybe not as successful as it is perceived. The reason is that the transformational approach requires employees to agree with their manager. The set aim will not be achieved in case workers do not share the same approach to the tasks and vision of the problems (Khan, 2016; Martin, 2015). This can become a pressing concern for Google, as it has been mentioned above, employees tend to disagree with Google’s directions and policies in many aspects of their professional activity (Gaus, 2019). Thus, unless the hardships are addressed, the transformational approach may not lead to the desired outcomes.
Ethics in Google and Its Impact on Leadership Effectiveness
Relationship between Leadership and Ethics
These days, ethical leadership is actively promoted in the field of large businesses, as they have a significant impact on the populations’ life. According to the CMOE team, “ethical leadership is knowing your core values and having the courage to live them in all parts of your life in service of the common good” (‘12 reasons why ethical leadership is important in business’, 2019, para. 1). Such an approach implies a benefit for a company and its clients (Agbim, 2018). It has a direct link to leadership strategy, as ethics presents an essential basis for making all decisions within the corporation. Ethics within companies guarantees fair decision-making, honest attitude to employees, and contributes to establishing a healthy working environment (Getting to equal: Promoting gender equality through human development’, 2013; Patel, 2013). It also helps to avoid underestimation on an aspect of gender and to take advantage or serving personal interests via obtained power.
In general, ethical leadership is considered to be important for business and its further development. In conditions of normal operation, companies may stick to social responsibility and organize supporting programs (Agbim, 2018). They may also conclude partnerships with charity funds in order to help the latter to accomplish their aims (Agbim, 2018). All these activities improve the company’s image in the eyes of the public, increasing customers’ loyalty and becoming more attractive for investors (Agbim, 2018). Therefore, ethical leadership contributes to effectiveness in periods of economic growth.
This approach appears to be beneficial in times of economic crises as well. In case a company continues to adhere to ethical leadership and aims to provide the population with possible help, it also has a positive impact on the company’s effectiveness (Lagowska, 2020). Instead of focusing only on business problems, large companies offer their help to others. This also contributes to the loyalty of customers and investors, and benefits the company in the long run (Lagowska, 2020). An illustrative example could be Google’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the company attempted to help the government and population to cope with unexpected problems arising from the lockdown and economic crises. Google marks: “we’ve committed $100 million and 50,000 hours of pro bono support to the global COVID-19 response, focusing our efforts in areas where our resources and people can have the most impact” (‘COVID-19 response’, no date, para. 2). Therefore, Google managed to provide people with essential help and improves its status.
The Link between Ethics, Values and Strategic Leadership in Google
Being a huge corporation with thousands of employees, Google is essential to establish its own corporate ethics. Their corporate rules are fixed at ‘Google supplier Code of Conduct’ (no date), which promotes labor and human rights, protects health and safety, encourage conscious attitude to the environment, and includes essential ethical and managerial guidelines (‘Google Code of Conduct, no date; Samimi et al., 2020). Promoting honesty and integrity in business operations are among Google’s values (‘Google supplier Code of Conduct, no date). The company is intended to avoid possible conflicts of interest in the process of realizing their professional activity.
Google also claims the importance of intellectual property rights and their protection. Google assures: “any tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold in products they manufacture does not directly or indirectly benefit armed groups that commit human rights abuses in or near the Democratic Republic of the Congo” (‘Google supplier Code of Conduct, no date, para. 8). This way, the company advances a responsible attitude to material sourcing. Google’s ethics also regards the privacy and information security for everyone who uses their services (‘Google supplier Code of Conduct, no date; ‘Google Code of Conduct, no date). The last aspect includes accessibility, which means the company uses best practices for supplying its services and products.
Corporate ethics has a significant impact on Google’s strategic leadership. First of all, fixed rules define restrictions for leadership policy and employees’ conduct. The aforementioned Code of Conduct is promoted among Google workers, and they are required to follow them (Towers, 2017; Burgelman et al., 2017). Moreover, the point of responsible materials sourcing implies some limitations for Google’s business operation in particular regions (Tutar, 2011). The company may also prohibit content, which does not match this rule (Norzailan et al., 2016). Therefore, there is a strong connection between ethics and values within Google and its strategic leadership.
The Relationship Between Ethics, Leadership and Business Performance in Google
The established ethical rules in Google also have a considerable impact on its business performance. First of all, it helps to avoid unnecessary risks, as they publish strict rules of their operating and encourages employees and their partners to follow them. Regulating their workers’ behavior, the administration stays confident in the realization of their professional activity (‘How do ethics affect the financial results of a company?’, 2021; Vig and Dominic, 2016). Therefore, the company manages to avoid expenditures for the immoral behavior of workers and other violations (Vig and Dumicic, 2016). Secondly, as it has been described above, ethical leadership helps Google to gain the respect of the broad public (Pistritto, 2015; Upadhyay and Singh, 2010). Therefore, this company appears to be interesting for numerous investors, as it deserves their trust. There are confident that Google will not be involved in an ethical conflict, which means the security of their investments (McMurrian and Matulich, 2006). As shareholders are interested in the company and trust it, this fact has a positive impact on business performance.
Thirdly, adherence to ethical values may attract new clients or make them even more loyal to the company. If Google shows that it attempts to protect human rights and defend the privacy of its customers, it becomes more appealing in the eyes of the broad public (McMurrian and Matulich, 2006; ‘How do ethics affect the financial results of a company?’, 2021). Therefore, they are more likely to use its product and services, comparing to their economic rival in the market (Sumcer, 2021; Vig and Dumicic, 2016). An increase in client base also positively impacts Google, business performance.
The Concept of Ethical and Socially Responsible Leadership in Google
Corporate social responsibility implies caring not only about business indicators and profit, but also taking into consideration the impact on the population and environment. This term is closely linked to ethics, and it presents an essential base to a social responsible concept (Ismail, 2011; Adeneye et al., 2015). The current principle encourages companies’ leaders to stick to morals and realize ethical guidelines in order to use the power they have for beneficial for social aims.
As it is evident from the information presented above, Google actively sticks to corporate social responsibility. An example could be its projects for helping the U. S. government and the population during the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, according to Pratap (2021), “Google.org is providing funding and Google volunteers to help Code for America develop and scale new technologies to connect 30,000 job seekers with training and job search support” (para. 8). Google also contributes to addressing the problem of racial biases and inequality, which exists in the United States (Pratap, 2021). Therefore, Google manages to adhere to the corporate social responsibility principle and respond to pressing social concerns (Pratap, 2021). In general, ethical leadership is among companies’ core values.
Ethics, Power, Gender and Culture in Google
As it is apparent from the analysis of Google’s corporate ethics, the company pays significant attention to this aspect. Google’s administration adheres to ethical leadership, and the organization provides essential help for solving social concerns. However, despite all established ethical rules, the majority of employees in Google are men. Shock (2021) mentions: “At Google, 70% of employees are male, and 83% of the company’s engineers and 79% of its managers are men” (para. 2). This has an effect on leadership effectiveness, limiting a variety of perspectives. Patel (2013) highlights that there is a difference between male and female leadership, and in order to supply harmonious and effective leadership, it is essential to abandon any prejudices and discrimination. Currently, Google makes attempts in order to balance the number of employees of both genders.
Another aspect, which influences leadership effectiveness considerably is power. There is a power leadership theory, promoting personal influence as an effective managerial principle. However, this approach is not productive within Google’s corporate culture. Promoting participative and transformational leadership theories, company’s managers contribute to creating a more friendly and accepting atmosphere within the collective (‘How to develop Google’s top 7 leadership competencies, no date). Instead of giving strict directions, they attempt to be a coach and advisor for their employees (Manimala et al., 2013). As Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, claims: “Managers serve the team” (Towers, 2017, para. 5). Moreover, Google encourages a creative working environment, which is impossible with strict power leadership. Google’s corporate culture advances democratic leadership, which guarantees continuing development of the organization (‘Google leadership principles at a glance’, 2020; Manimala et al., 2013). Employees’ creativity helps advance innovative solutions and inventions, making Google a huge and influential corporation, which reveals the effectiveness of the current leadership strategy.
However, this fact does not mean that managers do have power at all. In general, Google continues to build a hierarchical structure within the company. The power in the company belongs to all employees, who are capable of offering their solutions and influencing decisions (‘Google leadership principles at a glance’, 2020). A manager does not have unconditional power and influence (Manimala et al., 2013). A manager is responsible for doing organizational tasks, delegating duties, listening to the employees, and coaching them in order to make decisions together.
Recommendations of Leadership Capability Development
After conducting a comprehensive and profound analysis of leadership strategy in Google, it is possible to conclude that generally, it appears to be satisfactory. Particularly, Google’s approach to ethics and corporate social responsibility is prominent and definitely presents its strong side, and for this reason, this policy should be continued in the future (Pree, 2004). However, in order to guarantee further successful development, some changes might be done.
For instance, one of Google’s challenges implies that employees tend to disagree with managers in their decisions and directions. This can be a significant problem in conditions of the transformational leadership approach, making it ineffective (Lussier and Achua, 2016; Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 2006). Consequently, it is recommended to provide conferences, where both sides will be supplied to listen to each other, express their perspective, and come to a compromise (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 2006). Moreover, employees should be offered to get acquainted with the company’s culture deeper in order to understand the manager’s argumentation. This way, a mutual understanding between employees and managers could be achieved.
Another recommendation could be improving the process of reviewing employees’ ideas in order to reduce time spent on this activity. The current incentive within participative leadership style is definitely beneficial, though some correction should be done in realization (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 2006; Pree, 2004). A sufficient solution could be an increasing number of workers, who review all the suggestions or implement a form, which will contain a short description of an idea.
These days, the interest in authentic and inclusive leadership is rapidly growing. An authentic approach requires leaders to be aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and emotions, showing their real selves to other people (Kouzes and Posner, 2006). As for inclusive leadership, it implies being aware of personal preferences and biases and reviewing all the possible perspectives for better decision-making (Kouzes and Posner, 2006; Pree, 2004). Both these approaches may successfully supplement Google’s participative and transformational leadership styles, making the administration more productive (Rosenbach, 2012; Pree, 2004). It will increase the impact of its strong sides, prompting employees to express their perspectives and show their unique talents (Pree, 2004). Therefore, authentic and inclusive leadership is highly recommended to be implemented in Google’s leadership strategy.
In conclusion, it can be mentioned that today, Google is huge and highly respected by a broad public corporation, which has clients around the globe. Generally, the company has a healthy working environment, which stimulates its employees to reveal their knowledge, skills, and gifts. Predominately, Google adheres to a participative leadership style with elements of a transformational approach, though it has a hierarchical structure. Google’s workers are offered to express their creativity and propose solutions regardless of their position. Moreover, managers are interested in the personal growth of their employees and provide them with essential support. This makes Google one of the most appealing workplaces in the world.
Despite all the advantages, some corrections can be done in order to supply an even better outcome. It is recommended to work on mutual understanding between employees and managers, reducing disagreement between them. Moreover, it is advisable to reduce time spent on reviewing all employees’ incentives. Lastly, Google may implement an authentic and inclusive leadership approach in order to supplement its current leadership strategy, making it more productive and effective. This way, Google will guarantee its successful development in the long run.
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