The tech company has figured out the secret to attracting the best talent in the world, while also allowing people to truly enjoy their work.
Its founders know that in order to achieve maximum productivity and real breakthroughs in innovation, there needs to be a "no fear" environment.
And that comes from the top down.
Visionary leaders are extremely selective over whom they hire (Google, for example, is known for its excruciatingly long interview process). They will also ruthlessly eliminate bad hires, no matter how talented.
In short, the most innovative companies understand that the only way to stay at the forefront of their industry is by maintaining a strong company culture.
According to the authors of Tribal Leadership, all companies exist in one of five stages. The first two are about survival, the third is about the ego (everyone is out for themselves), and the last two are where employees are focused on something larger than themselves, which helps them achieve breakthroughs in innovation.
Most companies get caught up in "Stage 3" behaviors because that's how our education system is structured, with a focus on individual achievement. Authors Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright explain that "a person enters Stage 3 when he finds his groove, acquires confidence, and is recognized for his gifts. People told us about an awakening of personal ambition that turned to a drive for career success, coupled with recognition that they had work to do."
That's not bad in and of itself, but solely focusing on personal achievement is limiting. It becomes a zero-sum game. At the end of the day, there's only so much you can accomplish by yourself.
That said, most companies are at Stage 3. Those in the medical and academic professions usually stay at Stage 3, too. To break through to the next stage, leaders have to motivate employees to focus on the organization and its mission — and to view their colleagues as an integral part of their success. Companies like Tesla and Google have pulled this off. The authors give IDEO as an example, where "it's more important to maintain its Stage 4 culture than to win the next contract or hire the latest Stanford graduate."
There are fewer organizational boundaries in Stage 4 and 5 companies, and less bureaucracy overall. Leaders don't run their companies with "command and control" orders; instead they give employees enormous leverage and creative freedom. This has everything to do with trust and ownership:
"[Stage 5] revolves around infinite potential and how the group is going to make history — not to beat a competitor, but because doing so will make a global impact. ... Teams at Stage 5 have produced miraculous innovations. The team that produced the first Macintosh was at Stage 5, and we've seen this mood at Amgen. This stage is pure leadership, vision, and inspiration."
Again, Google is a classic example. In a recent interview with Wired magazine, Larry Page spoke about his management philosophy, and said that to come out on top, you can't focus on the competition. That only keeps companies focused on incremental change, not game-changing behaviors that will disrupt entire industries.
Other research points to this as well. In a new report McKinsey says that most companies waste too much time focusing on quarterly earnings; whereas CEOs like Jeff Bezos have trained analysts to look at the bigger picture. Visionary CEOs understand that the only way to become truly innovative is by looking inward instead of constantly outward.
We've written about Tribal Leadership before. There will be more articles about this management philosophy to come.
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