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Leadership Styles of Young Internet Giants and What We Can Learn From Them

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 3

unconventional leadership
Along with the boom of the internet is the interest on how the owners of the biggest internet companies are using unorthodox leadership styles to push their company forward. Many believe that since many of the CEOs of internet-based companies such as Facebook and Google are young, they tend to implement a rebellious style, much like the way they live their life (Bartz 2009).

The unorthodox company policies and even more unorthodox internal processes is not something that Sillicon Valley old timers find easy to accept. There are many who continue to doubt the sustainability these new leadership styles. Yet, young entrepreneurs continue to take inspiration from companies like Google in starting their own companies and many are succeeding.

Unconventional Leaders

One of the most publicised cases is Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. The interior design of their office, which they call Googleplex, had facilities like a fireman’s pole and slide to access the cafeteria, Starwars-themed conference room, and an outdoor cafeteria. They also give free haircuts, free massages, gym, pool, laundry, and free use of company cars for personal errands. They also gave their employees the freedom to work from outside the office so they can pursue personal project. Brin, Page and Schmidth believe that external influences are important to stimulate the creativity of people

Some of the products of Google were actually a direct result of the 1 day work from home policy. Their privileges they offer their employees cause their employees to stay in the office longer than usual even if you take away the time they spend accessing the “extra benefits” and they don’t get paid overtime.

Other internet companies like Facebook has followed the lead of Google. They offer their employees play areas like billiard tables, video games, and others scattered around the office. They also give free meals.

Viximo, a gaming company, on the other hand takes pride in allowing their employees to purse their own projects and give away bonuses to employees who can tell their bosses “you are wrong” and prove it.

Zappos, an online retail company, encourage their amployees to decorate their cubicles in the most unique way possible, their customer representatives are given bonuses if they are able to keep the customers longer on the phone because they feel communication develops relationship.

Of this, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are recognized as ones who rolled the red carpet for unconventional leadership in Silicon Valley. It is, therefore, worth our time to ake a look at how they do it.

Larry Page's Ascent

After Larry Page resumed the chief executive job at Google two weeks ago, he didn't hold any big employee meetings or give interviews with major media outlets. Instead, he plopped down $900 million to acquire the patent portfolio of Nortel, including some that relate to mobile networking technology.

Spending $1 billion on patents offers an important clue to what matters most to Page: innovation (Carlson, 2011). While some say he is trying to emulate Steve Jobs and Apple (AAPL), Page's leadership style is distinct -- and shaped by both his background as an engineer and his upbringing as the son of two computer science professors in Michigan, where he likely learned lessons from General Motors' (GM) woes (Elmer, 2011).

Page has spent his entire career at Google, and while he remains something of an enigma, his leadership style and ideals are becoming increasingly clear.

Leadership Style

He entertains and encourages crazy ideas

Page urges his teams to believe in audacious ideas. By tackling big ideas "that could really change the world," you attract incredibly smart people and achieve something worthwhile, even if it's not your original goal, he said at the Google Faculty Summit in 2009. The Google group researching artificial intelligence instead came up with the ad targeting system, which accounts for almost half of revenues (Ainsberg, 2010).

Avoids Bureaucracy

Even as Page and his recruiters continue to seek thousands of bright young graduates to join Google, he is quietly cutting or reassigning middle management and bureaucracy. The company's recent reorganization reinforces that notion (Elmer, 2011).

Quick and Concise

He has asked staff to give him 60-word updates or pitches on their current projects. That comes out to about two compressed paragraphs to impress and compel.

Page is also looking to encourage faster decisions and openness. Top executives are said to sit around together for one day a week -- time for collaboration and quick choices (Ainsberg, 2010). And he's looking to encourage the immediacy-minded attitude that prevails at YouTube.

Never Micro Manages

He gives everyone the liberty to develop their own product. He doesn’t kill ideas no matter how bad it may seem. He doesn’t rush them either.

Recognizes the significance of small moves

He is a persistent tinker with its products, adding new features and improving the usability of Gmail, its search engine and Android (Elmer, 2011). They improve and improvise all the time.


He spends years working on an idea. Google Maps and Street View took him 6 years to get others to work on it (Elmer, 2011). Mind though, he didn’t order others to do it even when he had the power to do so.

He waited to get others to believe in his idea so they would voluntarily work on his idea.

Page's interest in alternative fuel cars dates back to when he joined the Michigan Solar Car Team around 1993 (Ainsberg, 2010). Now Google is adding details on where to recharge electric cars on its maps and working on a robotic car that drives itself - the kind of idea that people expect Page to continue to launch no matter the payoff.


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 how new leaders like Page and Brin are doing it. Perhaps more importantly, new leaders must study the whole internet environment.

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.


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Nov 27, 2012 7:10am
Thank you for a very interesting article! I became inpired. Thumbs up!
Nov 27, 2012 7:11am
Thank you for a very interesting article! I became inspired. Thumbs up!
(sorry for the typo above)
Nov 28, 2012 2:53am
thank you for the compliment =)
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