Google's Data-Driven Approach to Finding Great Leaders

Google has pioneered a method of establishing whether or not a person is an effective leader, and it takes less than five minutes.

There’s a raft of qualities that make a good leader, and some traits are difficult when it comes to measuring. This is exactly what tech giant Google has been researching for a number of years now, taking a data-driven approach in determining whether or not a person exhibits the most common qualities of an effective leader through a short series of questions.

As you’ll see from their questions, Google doesn’t spend too long assessing the nitty-gritty of someone’s qualifications, and instead, looks to determine how well a person can use their communication and team working skills to achieve a goal. This is an acknowledgement of the fact that while technical expertise is no doubt important, it’s not the sole quality in terms of getting a job done right. Traits like respect, teamwork, feedback and communication, in Google’s mind are much more significant than technical ability in respect to working effectively in a team, and those who elect themselves to a leadership role within that group.

Google’s data-driven approach has led them to the point that they are now investing in their staff to all become leaders within the organisation. They’re breeding their staff to, through their work, establish their autonomy and ability to work independently, without the dictation of a manager. This is good not only for morale, but also for productivity, as it almost certainly breeds a culture of proactivity and staff that chose to exercise some initiative in achieving their tasks.

Here are Google's leadership evaluation questions, which respondents were asked to assign a number between 1, strongly agree, through to five, strongly disagree.

  1. My manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance.

  2. My manager does not "micromanage" (get involved in details that should be handled at other levels).

  3. My manager shows consideration for me as a person.

  4. The actions of my manager show that he/she values the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from his/her own.

  5. My manager keeps the team focused on our priority results/deliverables.

  6. My manager regularly shares relevant information from his/her manager and senior leaders.

  7. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about career development in the past six months.

  8. My manager communicates clear goals for our team.

  9. My manager has the technical expertise (e.g., coding in Tech, selling in Global Business, accounting in Finance) required to effectively manage me.

  10. I would recommend my manager to other Googlers.

  11. I am satisfied with my manager's overall performance as a manager.

Then, Google employees are asked to complete two more questions:

12. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?

13. What would you have your manager change?

Google synthesised their results, and determined that there’s little doubt that the most effective leaders in business - and the type leaders they are endeavouring to breed - in their business are people that foster discussions, don’t lead purely with a top-down approach, and have great communication skills. With these ingredients combined, strengthened by a culture of independence in the workplace, their data-driven approach to quantifying leadership traits provides an interesting and insightful approach to building the most effective team possible.

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