Project Oxygen – The 10 Qualities You Need to Be a Great Leader

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal which is worthwhile.”

― Vince Lombardi

If you’re wondering what it takes to be a great leader; you’re in luck. Institute Success’s is going to be diving into the core characteristics Google has identified as the common traits of the highest performing managers. It’s all part of Google’s Project Oxygen, an ongoing strategic initiative inside Google, focused on identifying what it takes to be a great leader. 

At Institute Success we are passionate about helping our clients succeed.  If you haven’t heard of Google’s Project Oxygen, to put simply, it’s Google’s take and effort of what makes a manger great.  Throughout countless hours of research, they’ve taken common traits from the highest performing managers and incorporated their research into their own management development programs.   This effort distills the most common characteristics in great leaders and adds that knowledge to their program to encourage growth and high performance throughout the organization.

Institute Successes’ take on the Project Oxygen traits:

1.  Be a good coach.

Everything happens through conversations. The best leaders are those who know how to engage their teams by listening, asking questions, communicating positive expectations and offering feedback and alternatives. The old command and control style of leadership is no longer effective. The most effective leaders today act and think like coaches.

2.  Empower your team, and don’t micromanage.

Effective leaders are good coaches who don’t micromanage.  They delegate to their team members to get the job done, even at the risk they may fail. By coaching and empowering others, great leaders build trust and allow others to take calculated risks. 

3.  Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being

Work environments can often be an impersonal place focused on results. Connecting with others on a personal level and communicating you care about them as an individual can have a profound effect on employee engagement and satisfaction,  and in turn the bottom line. Research proves that leaders who show an interest in your employees strengths are 71% more likely to have an energized and engaged team. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said, “before you became a leader, success was about growing yourself. After you became a leader, success was about growing others”.

4.  Be productive and results-oriented.

“Lead by example” is an integral part in creating a successful team. Great managers set the tone of what a good leader looks like as they are continuously encouraging and empowering their team to do the same.  The bottom line is this, employees don’t want to work for a lazy boss. When team members see their bosses’ engaged, working tenaciously, and making a best effort, it only makes them want to be more productive and results oriented.  

5.  Be a good communicator and listen to your team.

Communication is leadership and leadership is communication. Effective leaders know the art and skill of respecting, connecting and valuing each individual team member. They know how to practice active listening, ask powerful questions, provide feedback and coach employees to finding effective solutions.

6.  Supports career development and discusses performance.

Helping employees with career development is often viewed as risky. The fear is team members may leave after investing in their skills and experiences. However, Google’s findings were just the opposite.  They found the more a manager actively looked for ways to help employees grow and develop in their career goals, the less likely the employees were to leave. Additionally, by investing in their professional development you gain a stronger more confident and competent member of your team. 

7.  Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.

Success begins with a clear vision. When the purpose and strategy is articulated to each team member they can begin to see for themselves where they have an opportunity to contribute. Surprising insights come when employees are enrolled as an active contributor in achieving their own and the organization’s success. There is nothing more powerful than a team with a shared vision of success.  

8.  Possess key technical skills to help advise the team.

Great leaders possess both emotional intelligence skills and technical expertise. They have honed their soft skills and are able to take the time to get to know how things are done. This allows them to make the best decisions and positively advise their team members on how to move forward. 

* Those are Google’s eight original behaviors that they discovered since their study started in 2008. But they haven’t stopped there—they have recently added two more behaviors that they have seen consistently in great managers. Those are:

9.  Collaborate across the organization.

While the traits mentioned above will strengthen team bonds under a unified leadership, leaders should actively collaborate across the organization to develop personal and professional relationships with different groups. Teams shouldn’t isolate themselves from the rest of the organization. As high performing teams become more interdependent they develop a greater appreciation of everyone’s’ shared contributions and become more successful within the organization as a whole. 

10.  Be a strong decision maker.

When it comes to decision-making, prompt and well-considered decisions rule the day. Impulsive decisions aren’t the answer, and waffling and hoping a colleague or employee will make it–isn’t either. Being a strong decision maker also means communicating your choices and more importantly the “why” behind them.