Google, True Leadership and The Who of a Contegian

Leadership_artLast month, the New York Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman titled “How to Get a Job at Google“. The premise of the article is that Google has reduced its dependency for candidate evaluation around traditional measurements of academic success and traditional leadership.

It’s interesting to see Google change their interview approach over time. Originally, you had to attend the best university. You had to have the best grades. The interviews were notoriously grilling. You had to be the best of the best. (Note, there was never any definition of what “the best” was.) According to the article, their core areas of focus are now around general cognitive/learning abilities, emergent leadership, humility, and ownership.

This shift is the difference between “what you know” vs. “who you are” as a candidate. At Contegix, we have spent the last 5 years placing more emphasis on the “who” than the “what”. We learned a few lessons along the way that experientially highlight and predict the long-term success of a team member based around who they were. An example I often give is our support engineers.

We have absolutely brilliant engineers as part of our team. They manage, monitor, and maintain our customers’ infrastructure everyday. They ensure systems are performing and respond to technical challenges. This work is based upon what they know. The “who” aspect of our engineers is around their ability to deliver passionate customer service while performing this work. We cannot lose sight that this infrastructure can and does have an impact on customers’ livelihoods. Being the best engineer, but then being insensitive to the customer, leads to failure.

Furthermore, in the world of evolving technology, the “who” of an engineer will guide how she/he will be able to grow, adapt, and rethink. We need people who are excited by and able to build the technology. They should be able to deliver technology to our customers while not being overwhelmed by it.

Of all the candidate attributes, I would take this a step further and state that (true) leadership is the core attribute. It is the critical, all-inclusive “who” trait for which every company must evaluate candidates. This is regardless of the position or role in the company. True leadership shows itself in every place, from small team settings to times of challenge.

It takes true leaders to take ownership of challenges. It takes true leaders to be humble and allow a more qualified or experienced team member to temporarily lead a team. This is the truly open minded approach. Can one truly lead if they ignore new facts and drive their team off the cliff due to ego?

Leadership has been the trait most critical to growing Contegix. Building and adding great leaders has had a profound positive impact on the culture. Having folks who are willing to be humble leaders, who are open minded, and are willing to take ownership, significantly increases our capacity for progress, innovation, and, most important, customer service.

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