“Let others succeed”: Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s simple but effective leadership style

Learn to let go.
Learn to let go.
Image: Google
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Sundar Pichai doesn’t exactly seem part of the brash, big-ego club of Silicon Valley’s top leaders, but few can doubt the soft-spoken engineer’s talent and temerity.

When, only a decade after joining Google, the low-profile executive was appointed CEO in August 2015, the analysis of Pichai’s meteoritic rise focused on his ability to create exceptional products and his remarkable leadership style. In an environment replete with formidable characters and much infighting, Pichai emerged as the nice guy who could pull teams together and get work done.

That collaborative ability lies at the heart of Pichai’s leadership style, he explained on a visit to his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, on Jan. 05:

When you’re trying to run something at the scale of Google, we have now over 60,000 people and…you rely on other strong leaders. A lot of what I do is… I have an outstanding leadership team. It’s learning to let go and really empowering people at all levels of the organisation, and trusting them to doing the right thing.

As a leader, a lot of your job is to make those people successful. It’s less about trying to be successful (yourself), and more about making sure you have good people and your work is to remove that barrier, remove roadblocks for them so that they can be successful in what they do. So that’s how I’ve always thought about it.

I also value teamwork quite a bit and I think it’s really important to build organisations where people really want to work together. Everything comes out of that. So, setting up collaborative cultures is another big thing I’ve been trying to focus on.