Financial writer Steven Pearlstein interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt about his leadership style for the Washington Post’s “On Leadership” series. The big takeaway is that Googlers are a special people to be bossed by no one, only a collective will toward good. Below, we’ve pasted text highlights and embedded the clip. Watch, read, but be warned: the whole thing is very, very Google-y.
Q: Steven Pearlstein (Post Financial Columnist): “How is it that you lead this organisation?
A: Schmidt: “Google is run by its culture and not by me. … We operate under the assumption that everyone including me is extremely dispensable, because ultimately Google is bigger than the individuals who make it. Google is about a mission.
Q: Pearlstein: “Can you say ‘from now on we’re not going to do this, we’re going to do that,” and it’s done or does that not work?”
A: Schmidt: “Google is an unusual because it’s really organised from the bottom up. … It often feels at Google people are pretty much doing what think best and they tolerate having us around. … We don’t really have a five-year plan. … We really focus on what’s new, what’s exciting and how can you win quickly with your new idea.”
Q: Pearlstein: Do employees feel that managers work for them or the other way around?
A: Schmidt: “It’s much easier to have an employee base in which case everybody is doing exactly what they want every day. They’re much easier to manage because they never have any problems. They’re always excited, they’re always working on whatever they care about. So you’re much much better off if you select people to work in your firm who really want to change the world. Now, they’re going to have issues and you’re going to have to help them … But it’s a very different model than the traditional, hierarchical model where there’s the CEO statement and this is the strategy and this is what you will do, and it’s very very measured. We put up with a certain amount of chaos from that.
Q: Pearlstein: So is the employee perception false?
A: Schmidt: “The new phrase is of course network-based organisation. And we think that Google is probably the best example of a network-based organisation. Very flat, very non-hierarchical, very much informal in culture and ideas – ideas come from everywhere. … Part of the job of being a CEO in a company like Google is to have an environment where people are constantly throwing you their best ideas as opposed to being afraid to talk to you.”