What Advice Would Steve Jobs Give Larry Page?

“Out of the box” Jobs came back to replace “inside the box” John Sculley and hit it out of the park. Now that Page has done the same with Eric Schmidt, how will he do? So far, not so good.

I think the simple advice that Jobs would give Page is, “Don’t be afraid to be an a-hole if it will get the job done… Hey, it worked for me.”


Here’s the challenge.
Can Larry Page’s coming back do for Google what Steve Jobs coming back
did for Apple? So far, not so good.

Media shy Page delivered 370 words in his first quarter earnings
report and although earnings were up 18 % over last year, analysts hunger to
hear more contributed to a 5.4 % stock plunge on Thursday.

What does Google and more specifically Larry Page need to
turn things around? Page came back
ostensibly to add some “outside of the box” visioning/strategizing to replace
Eric Schmidt’s (who was the second coming of John Sculley during Apple’s
history) being too much inside the box.

Page may need to take a page from Mr. Jobs personality
especially the part of him that is not hesitant to be a visionary a-hole, if
that is what it takes to get the job done.

A visionary a-hole in Jobs case is someone who is so clear
about what he and Apple want to be, that they are able to tune out, disregard
and even scoff at all the short term people (aka Wall Street transactionally
myopic, “show me the money” types) who consistently pressure any public CEO
with, “What are you going to do?” questions. In other words, Jobs has been able to keep Apple on an
aspirational and contagious “what do you want to be?” path and not become
distracted or deterred by the money and non-value driven world demanding of
them, “what are you going to do next?”

Page may not be enough of an a-hole to keep his focus on
“what do you (and Google) want to be?” and resist all the “what are you going
to do?” questions and demands that when not satisfied will punish you like they
did Page and Google yesterday.


To do that Page needs to surround himself by a few
PALs. PAL stands for Purposeful
Agendaless Listening. Purposeful
Agendaless Listening is about the people in your braintrust believing in you
and listening in a way that enables you to think aloud and clarify your thinking
and in Page’s case crystallize it into a disruptive vision that compels and sells.

Years ago one of the most respected psychoanalysts of the last
century, Wilfred Bion, said: “the purest form of listening is to listen without
memory or desire.” By that he
meant that when you listen to someone with memory you have an old agenda you’re
trying to plug them into (as in, “Hey Larry what are you going to do about the
mess Google is in?”). And when you
listen with desire you have a new agenda that you’re trying to plug them into
(as in, “Hey Larry, so what’s your new business vision that will turn the stock
price around and don’t insult us with a mere 370 words?”). In either case you are not listening to
that person’s agenda.

If I were Larry Page and not able to muster up my inner
a-hole, I would have problems tuning out all the people with agendas for
me. What I would need is a few
PALs who could listen in a purposeful but agendaless way and be in a dialogue
with me to help me think aloud and clarify a vision for what I and Google want
to be and not be inhibited and derailed by all the agendadriven “what are you
going to do?” short term thinkers on Wall Street and beyond.

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About the author

Mark Goulston, M.D. is the Co-Fonder of Heartfelt Leadership a global community whose Mission of Daring to Care it dedicated to identifying, celebrating, developing and supporting heartfelt leaders who are as committed to making a difference as they are to making a profit