This essay provides a critical view and recommendations on Google’s leadership approach, compares it with Microsoft, and discusses how ethics affect the chosen direction of management.
Google’s Leadership Challenges
Google’s top position in many IT markets calls for the need to analyze its organizational culture and the ways the company resolves its challenges. Despite having one of the best corporate cultures in the world, Google is not devoid of issues. Currently, the company does not support all employees on the same level, which leads to numerous problems with perceived justice (Gilbert, 2019). This notion lowers employees’ trust in the fairness of a leader, making transformational leadership less efficient and taking away their intrinsic motivation (Thompson, 2019). Google must ensure that no such incidents occur in the future.
There is another problem with conflicts in the work environment. Freedom in a workplace had created disputes that disrupt the workflow and even led to several employees being fired due to heated political debates (Gilbert, 2019). While it is understandable that it is impossible always to have a clear consensus among employees under democratic leadership, it is essential to resolve such conflicts to avoid losing valuable people and public reputation. The situational approach might be more suitable for managing conflicts, as there is a need to exhibit authority over potentially hostile interactions.
Judging from these stated problems, there are possible improvements and adjustments to Google’s leadership strategy. Leadership is directly affected by self-perceived images of employees, and Google does its best to ensure that their self-esteem remains high (Gio and Yazdanifard, 2015). The worth of each employee is implied to be equally important in this context. It is essential to make every person feel valued to keep their self-esteem at the level set by Google.
The task of a leader is to keep the team focused on the goal. Google has a unique strategy that gives the power to drive innovation to every employee, but there are obstacles, such as conflicting interests (Zulfan et al., 2020). The lack of a code of conduct that is enforced globally, while beneficial for open discussions, can be detrimental to the future of the company, as arising conflicts can force valuable employees to leave.
Democratic and Transformational Approaches
Google possesses traits of two distinct leadership styles: democratic and transformational. As the company’s primary focus is the inspiration of its employees, transformational leadership is a perfect fit for this role since it does not push but guides people into achieving more than what was expected (Northouse, 2016). Simultaneously, Google allows its employees to work in groups that consist of members of the same rank, leading to a democratic leadership style within such a division.
Such a collision of approaches can be confusing, but it is vital to consider their similarities. Both democratic and transformational leaderships encourage autonomy, and critical thinking and promote collaboration between employees and their leader (Northouse, 2016). In such an environment, employees become more suitable for self-governing, as they are allowed to choose their metrics for performance measurement, goals, and tools for their achievement (Affrou and Al-Edeinat, 2016). Moreover, this combination of styles gives the company better stability and ensures that it has a flexible strategy in the case of a crisis (Affrou and Al-Edeinat, 2016). As can be seen, Google allows a high degree of freedom for its workers. For comparison, a company under transactional leadership would be looking the opposite, as an authoritarian and controlling leader is one of its primary traits (Northouse, 2016). A transactional style promotes a high level of order, which suits well for many smaller organizations that do not heavily rely on R&D yet is entirely unsuitable for Google’s chosen strategy.
It is worth noting that Google and Microsoft share similarities in their leadership approach. Both companies achieved high results in new product development by nurturing a productive working environment by letting their employees freely explore new ideas with no significant constraints (Nicoleta et al., 2021). However, these two companies differ in their approach to motivation, as Microsoft does not provide entertainment to its employees, and in the hierarchy, Microsoft has product divisions, while Google has more direct reporting lines (Nicoleta et al., 2021). Otherwise, similarities between their leadership styles suggest their efficiency in the chosen task of innovation nurturing.
It is worth analyzing leadership optimization through the lens of leadership theories. Google employs a leadership approach that aims to promote innovation, cooperation, and inclusivity (Zulfan et al., 2020). Each division that works on a specific product of a company possesses a unique organizational culture (Tran, 2017). According to the social identity theory, it is essential to uphold a group identity that suits an employee to ensure their productivity (Schedlitzki and Edwards, 2018). As Google excels at R&D and innovation, a leader in such an environment must consider social identities as a vital piece of the cohesiveness of a highly autonomous team (Gumusluoglu, Karakitapoğlu-Aygün, and Scandura, 2017). It is the most ethical move to allow employees to shape their work environment to suit their needs by appointing leaders that will promote self-improvement as a primary goal.
The implicit leadership theory expands on the topic and explains the success behind Google’s leadership style. To enhance the innovative power of employees, a company must satisfy whatever issues its workers, and not leaders, consider vital (Bendak et al., 2020). This can be achieved by choosing a leader suitable to the employees’ vision of ideal leadership (Carnes, Houghton, and Ellison, 2015). Moreover, the perceptions of the division of power within a company differ, but this difference can be reduced by letting employees choose whom to follow (Agbim, 2018). Google’s focus on innovation requires constant checks of employees’ attitudes towards both their work and the company. Despite being more adapted to self-governing, workers in such a situation still need a leader.
As has been discussed, the company has several issues with the lack of equality among employees in the same position. Google aims to remove any factors that might negatively affect its employees’ productivity (Gio and Yazdanifard, 2015). However, as the firm tends to recognize those who have higher input into the company’s business through innovation and development, there is an imbalance of power distribution, despite the proclaimed flattened ranking system. It is in Google’s interests to uphold ethical organizational culture, as it increases employee commitment and reduces turnover (Huhtala and Feldt, 2016). A company with high-performance culture must promote healthy relationships not only between leaders and their followers but between workers of the same rank (Warrick, 2017). There is a need for Google to establish this connection and consider upholding it as the highest priority.
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