Follow the leader

"Follow me." (photo courtesy of

By Anthony O. Alcantara
I’m not a leadership guru. And I have a hard time telling the difference between visions and hallucinations. I am therefore not the person to ask if you want to draft a sensible vision statement for your team, or write an inspiring piece on leading an ambitious campaign to wipe out the competition.

But, and that is a very emphatic “but,” my serendipitous research skills can compensate for my utter lack of credibility. Serendipitous because I came upon an interesting article on leadership as I was browsing the newspaper for the latest showbiz gossip while eating a donut, sipping hot chocolate and waiting for my wife to finish a meeting on how to “wear” your baby one Saturday morning. In mommyspeak, that means how to use a baby carrier.

The article is entitled “Top to Bottom, Making a Better Boss” by Adam Bryant of The New York Times. It’s about Google Inc.’s “Project Oxygen,” which sought to crack the leadership code based on some hard-core number crunching and unassailable data analysis.

The results were culled from 10,000 observations about managers and the analysis of more than 100 variables from performance reviews, feedback surveys, nominations for awards, accounts of complaints and other reports.

Indeed those nerds at Google really love data. Maybe they could help my wife and her friends analyze the precise level of happiness of mothers and babies when using baby carriers, and perhaps the precise number of donuts that husbands can eat while waiting for their wives to finish their deliberations.

Anyway, here are the eight directives that Google produced after the study:

1. Be a good coach.
2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage.
3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being.
4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
6. Help your employees with career development.
7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team.

Now you can print this list and meditate on these directives everyday. Make a checklist if you want. This is perhaps the most compelling distillation of all the world’s wisdom on leadership.

But there’s more. The nerds of Google ranked those eight directives by importance, and they came up with some fascinating results.

Here’s what Bryant wrote:

“What employees valued most were even-tempered bosses who held one-on-one meetings, who helped people by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

So if you want to be a better leader quickly, concentrate on those traits. The study also showed that being equal to or better than subordinates in terms of technical expertise is the least important attribute of a leader.

Now please don’t let your boss see you nodding your head vigorously as you read this, okay?

The study also revealed that people cite three distinct reasons why they leave a company. They work in combination too:

1. “I don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company. I feel my work doesn’t matter.”
2. “I have no respect for and I don’t like my co-workers.”
3. “I have a terrible boss.”

The last one, the Google nerds say, is the biggest factor.

When Google applied the lessons they learned from the study, 75 percent of their worst managers showed “significant improvement.” I don’t know how it was done exactly. The author did not elaborate.

But still, Google’s study deserves a good look. Perhaps a similar study can be done here in the Philippines, just to be sure that culture is accounted for.

And if you want to start being a good leader now, go have a pleasant one-on-one chitchat with one of your subordinates. There’s no harm in trying.

(This is a reprint of my editorial in the March issue of PLDT’s ACC:ESS Magazine. The theme is leadership.)

3 Responses to “Follow the leader”

  1. u r a good writer

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