Leaders should speak less and listen more, says Google’s Pichai

Speak less as possible and listen more was the advice for leaders from Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive officer, who was given a Global Leadership Award at the India Ideas Summit in Washington DC on Wednesday.

“There is no single model for leadership,” said Pichai. “For me, the common attributes you see in all models of leadership is valuing people, driving a collaborative environment and empowering them.”

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sundarpichai
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sundarpichai

Leadership is all about taking the backseat as much as possible, said Pichai, adding it was about getting out of the way when you can but also help people to remove obstacles that were standing in their way and preventing them from succeeding.

“Even if you are in a meeting, the higher up you are it is tough to understand whats going on so speaking less as possible and listening more to what is around you is important,” said Pichai.

“Being tough is important but equally important is to be compassionate and empathetic,” said Pichai.

In an on-stage conversation with Nisha Biswal, President of the US-India Business Council which organized the summit, Pichai also said his own life path, from a modest upbringing in Chennai in India to the top position at Google, showed how the power of technology could positively impact a person’s life.

Technology, for Pichai, is a fundamental human need and Google’s mission is to help provide people with information and knowledge.

Pichai said that Google viewed India not just as a growth opportunity but also as a market where products could be developed and then taken overseas.

“We are very excited to be a part of India’s growth story. I think the Indian government has done a great job of making technology one of the pillars by which they will improve governance and the socioeconomic conditions there,” said Pichai.

“Just to give you a sense of how we contribute to the Make in India program, Android powers [most of the] phones in India, and we deeply care about making phones cheaper every year so that more people can afford it and access it. In 2004 there were maybe two local manufacturers who would make devices in India, now that number is up to well over 200,” he added.

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sundarpichai
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sundarpichai

The presenting of global leadership awards to Pichai and Nasdaq President and CEO Adena Friedman were among the many highlights of a well-attended summit that also comprised of other interesting talks and presentations on topics like the future of work and why the Indian sweet Jalebi was key to unlocking India’s potential.

Nearly 400 delegates are registered to attend the summit at the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington DC that kicked off on Wednesday and ends on Thursday.