Monday, April 04, 2011

A First Look at Larry Page's Google

By Eric Jackson
RealMoney Contributor

4/4/2011 1:00 PM EDT
Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Today is Larry Page's first day at Google (GOOG - commentary - Trade Now) as CEO, post Eric Schmidt's "adult supervision."

In my opinion, Larry has always wanted this job. He never wanted to cede control when they hired Schmidt, but he felt forced into it by his venture-capitalist investors. After all, back in 2001, when Schmidt was hired, 28-year-olds (which Page was back then) just didn't tell Kleiner Perkins to buzz off and that they were going to keep manning the ship. It took Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to break that mold.

The question you are bound to hear repeated today and for the next few months is whether Larry Page is the next Steve Jobs (of Apple(AAPL - commentary - Trade Now)) or Jerry Yang (of Yahoo! (YHOO - commentary - Trade Now)).

My guess is that Page will have a rough go as CEO. He is probably underestimating the human, emotional and leadership aspects of being a CEO. And let's face it, he hasn't had many role models who are great bosses. Larry has had Eric Schmidt -- who of course was always highly deferential toward Page and Sergey Brin - plus his doctoral advisor at Stanford and his parents. That's rather limited.

Page has never had the amazing experience of having a real jerk as a boss. The kind of guy who drives you absolutely nuts, who you bitch about at the water cooler with colleagues, and about whom you mutter to your spouse or girlfriend at night: "If I ever get to be CEO of this company, I'm going to do the exact opposite of that guy." Conversely, he's never had a boss who's challenged him, brought out the best in him and held him accountable when he was slacking off.

And don't tell me, "Oh, Google is a different kind of company. It's like a college campus. The management team even sits around on beanbags in an open-air room in the middle of the campus at the same time every week where people can drop by on their scooter and ask questions of the top leaders." I used to drink wine until 2 a.m. at college and debate Kierkegaard and Nietzsche too. There were some brilliant peers who intellectually duked it out with me. But do you know what all of them taught me about being a leader of people? Absolutely zilch.


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