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Google Management Style: Is it Really New?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 1

Google Management Style: Is it Really New?
Everybody knows it by now, Google:
  • gives free meal
  • has different themes for their conference rooms
  • allows their employee to borrow the company car
  • has a daycare inside their compound
  • has a once a week work from home policy
  • has slides and stairs, and others

There are others, of course. Viximo has a come and go as you please policy, Facebook also provides meals for their employees, Zapppos encourage their employees to pimp their own cubicle and has once a month company party, Paul Smith (the brand) allows pets to be brought in, and others.

Many have raved about the supposed management styles of these young leaders. The questions is whether or not the management style is really new. Let us go back to some of the classic leadership theories and understand how the company set up may be as old as old can get.

This “revolutionary” approach has led many to believe that the young leaders are also . However, there are some who believe that this kind of leadership style is not new. This paper will examine both classic and modern leadership theories and analyse whether any of these theories fit internet-based organizations or businesses.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership was first mentioned by Robert Greenleaf in 1977. He emphasized the importance of leaders being able to recognize the value of his constituents. This recognition is manifested by putting their interest ahead of the leaders’.

However, such a concept may actually not be an original one. Socrates and Xenophon (Adair, 1989) already introduced the concept of leaders putting more value to the act of listening and understanding others more than imposing their will. Even earlier than Socrates and Xenophon is St. Paul. He, in fact, was open about his strategy to influence people in joining Christianity. He listened to other people and  analysed what are their needs that Christianity can fulfil or questions that Christianity can answer (Cross, 1998).

Ken Melrose, CEO of Toro Company, said that the act of serving is also a strategy of manipulation. A leader conditions the mind of the constituents that their needs will be met by the leader, that the leader will work hard to provide for them and that no one else can give their needs to them. When they are hungry, the leaders provide the food. In an organization, physical hunger is replaced by other needs like recognition, opportunities, and validation. These things allow the employees to grow and learn and do their jobs (Dess and Picken, 2000).

Many attest that servant leadership motivate people to work harder based on many organization with leaders claiming they use the strategy (Greenleaf, 1977). Servant leaders prove the system is working when people are more independent and able surpass the quality of work expected of them. It can be argued that an organization with a servant leader actually serves a purpose, not the person. Some examples are Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They all rule their nation but put their cause front and center instead of relying on their authority (Zohar & Marshall, 2001).

Action-Centred Leaders

Adair (1973) also developed the Action-Centered Leadership theory. Under this, leadership has three levels: the team, the job, and the person. Each element does not exist in isolation which means that even when leading one element is different from leading another, they also overlap.

This theory argues “leadership” is a tangible concept. The key is in determining what kind works best for a certain situation. If servant leadership puts the members’ need in front and center, ACL believes that the task is the most important element in leading an organization (Adair, 1989).

Leaderless Theory

This theory is a new theory and is highly influenced by the internet technology. Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom (2008) examined two emerging organizational trends, one that involves the leaders bequeathing the power to every member of the organization.

Being new, it is expected that many continue to doubt how effective it is or whether it Many will argue of is valid or not. Brafman and Beckstrom liken the characteristic of a starfish to an organization that has no leader. Once you cut off any of the parts, it will only grow itself back to produce a new whole organization. The sheer concept of a leaderless organization is where the questions start. How can you consider an absence of leadership, a style of leadership?

This is the style used by Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). There is only one thing constant in every chapter of AA, the 12 steps. However no one is in-charged of making sure the 12 steps are upheld but everyone is in-charged of making sure it is upheld. Removing one element, doesn’t kill the others.

Craiglist, Wikipedia, and Google use the same principle. The founders set up the bare bones. Google set up a code that searches results but everyone can put their content. Wikipedia set up codes to create an online encyclopedia but everyone can put contents and everyone can police them.

Psychodynamic Theory

This theory believes that a leader’s success depends on the how the psychodynamic works between the leader and the members of the organization. It argues that leader may make a “command formal” but the real directives come from the members.

This theory believes that a leader must adjust his style on the individual temperaments of the members. Leading an organization with 100 members may mean 100 different leadership styles (Dansereau et al., 1975; Graen, 1976; Graen et al., 1977). It is very individualistic in approach rather than social (Stech, 2004).

Karlgren (1950) emphasizes that leaders under this theory must be decisive despite the emphasis on leading each person according to the personality of the employee. This decisiveness must be communicated with gentleness rather than terror..

Contingency Theories

            Under the Contingency theory are four kinds of leaders. All of it, however, believes that an effective leader must learn how to adapt and change to fit the need of the situation and the person being led. Often, a leader must balance and find the meeting point between the behavioural need, the situational need, and the historical need (Hodgson & White, 2001).

Fiedler Theory

Fred Fiedler first published his theory in the 60s (1969). He suggested that there are three elements to consider when a leader is making decisions or setting directions:

  • The setup of the situations including the dynamics and relationship between the people involved
  • The leader’s amount of influence over the organization of situation
  • The regard of the subordinates to the leader

When the dynamics between the employees and the leader, employees and employees, and employees and situation are clearly defined and has been tried and tested, then the leadership works well. When the situation is too complicated, this kind of leadership calls for the change of the leader rather than the style (Wright, 1996) which Bryman (1992) criticizes because it directly contradicts what a contingency theory stands for.


Stating that organizational trends and organizational structures will evolve is a universal truth. Things change, trends change, technology change, and it exercises influence on how people work which calls for adjustments in the system. Some leadership styles and theories may remain true but would have to be contextualized as it will render itself less relevant to other factors that affect an organization or a culture (Whipp and Pettigrew, 1993). Theories that focus on the personal characteristic of a leader, for example, fail to figure in the evolution of the employees that are getting empowered more and more with the growth of ITC (Korman, 1966; Kerr et al., 1974; Schriesheim and Murphy, 1976; Katz, 1977; Schriesheim, 1980).

New organizations that aim to thrive in this day and age, where customers are soon going to be dominated by people who have never known a life with ITC as we know it, must study these new theories and, perhaps more importantly, study the cases by which these theories are put to test.

This internet domination makes exercising complete control over organizations as dead as an analogue phone. Every member are finding it easier to become a leader and if they are not given that opportunity, it will be harder to keep members and losing members is the sure fire way of killing a leadership.


Related Contents:

1) Leadership Styles of Young Internet Giants and What We Can Learn From
2) How To Gain Credibility For Your Online Store
3) Learning from Nike's Online Business Strategy Part 1
4) What is Corporate Governance?



Dec 20, 2012 12:24am
Wow - lots of theories.
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