How to Develop Google's Top 7 Leadership Competencies

A leadership team is one of a company’s most important assets. Leaders motivate, inspire, make important decisions concerning the company’s future, and drive change. In order for change to be sustainable it has to start from the top.

So how can you ensure these qualities trickle down through the company, to department heads, team leads, and individuals? In Project Oxygen, Google identified the top 8 qualities needed to be a successful team lead, and surprisingly enough, technical skills came in last.

This revealed an interesting disconnect between the way we have traditionally promoted leaders based on technical expertise, versus the soft skills needed to lead a team effectively as revealed by Google.

Below is a list of the 7 leadership skills Google identified and a top read to help your managers develop them.

1. Is a good coach


Increasingly managers need to apply coaching skills in their role, to support team members’ development. The first step to developing a coaching mindset is to show openness to growth. Managers should encourage and ask for upwards feedback to help them learn in which areas to improve.

In addition to being open to growth, a key coaching skill that will help managers in their role is active listening. By learning to listen at a deeper level, managers will gain a better understanding of their team members and the challenges they may be facing. In turn, they will be better positioned to support them.

What to read: Mindset by Carol Dweck. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck teaches us to think with a growth, rather than fixed mindset.

Active Listening 101 by Emilia Hardman.


2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage


Good managers are able to give direction and autonomy all at once. By setting team goals, they give people the bigger picture of what they’re working towards and how they are contributing to the team’s success. At the same time, they cultivate trust giving employees the freedom to work on their tasks with minimal supervision. Part of empowering people is helping them to uncover and focus on their strengths, thereby developing professionally.

What to read: help Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Pink explains that the way to truly motivate your people is by supporting them in achieving autonomy, mastery and purpose.


3. Expresses interest in wellbeing

To many this may seem outside the realm of a manager’s responsibility. And yet, it plays a key role in employees feel engaged and recognized in the workplace. While driving the bottom line is important, we should also remember that people are the ones helping us meet our targets via their daily work.

Managers should be attuned to their team members’ wellbeing, demonstrating that they are valued members of the team. Being able to sense when people are not doing well, are overworked, stressed, or are in a conflict, are key qualities that help managers delegate and reprioritize tasks, to help their team be more effective. Showing an interest in people’s wellbeing also helps to develop a greater sense of trust within the team.

What to read: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This influential book outlines a four step program to develop your EQ.


4. Is productive and results oriented


Whilst having high emotional intelligence is an important skill, it’s natural that managers are expected to be results oriented. As team leaders, they have a responsibility to ensure their teams are delivering on key results and they are achieving the goals set out at the beginning of the year or quarter. They also need to ensure these results are contributing to the company’s overall success. In this scenario, the ability for managers to strategize, organize, execute and delegate is extremely valuable.  

What to read: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen lays out a very simple method for organizing your often hectic list of work responsibilities.

5. Is a good communicator - listens and shares results effectively


Good communication skills are a must for anyone, but particularly once you find yourself in a leadership position. The ability to give feedback effectively is a key part of this. Managers need to be able to communicate when there’s room for improvement, but also know how to provide recognition when it’s due.

While being comfortable giving feedback is important, managers also need to show an ability to listen. This could be receiving upwards feedback on their skills, or listening to a team member who disagrees with them. No matter what the situation, managers should practice their listening skills, which in turn will help them get a better understanding of the team dynamics, and the bigger picture of interactions between colleagues. 

What to read: How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

6. Helps with career development


As mentioned before, managers have to play many different roles and one of those is supporting their direct reports’ professional development. Gallup found that people who use their strengths at work are 6 times more likely to be engaged, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit. Learning how to identify and leverage strengths in the workplace is the main differentiator between high performing teams.

However, not everyone is naturally aware of their strengths, and even for managers it can be difficult to pin point an individual’s key qualities. Luckily there are many books and tests out there to help them do so. Once identified, managers can help employees set professional development goals.

As HR, make sure you support managers in this activity for example with a list of books they can use to help identify strengths, books they can recommend to their direct reports, and most importantly a list of trainings per development area.  

What to read: Strengths Finder 2.0 by Gallup


7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team

As a team lead, it’s extremely important for managers to have a vision of what they want the team to achieve and how they plan to do so. This helps give focus and direction to everyone else on the team.

Each team is composed of individuals with their own unique talents, and leaders need to guide these individuals to work together. Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk covers some of the basics.


What to read: Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for you and your team by Simon Sinek




While today’s managers are faced with many new challenges from providing continuous coaching to managing remote workers, it doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right support system in place, you can ensure your managers are ready to take on their new responsibilities. These 7 reads are a great starting point to provide managers with the tools they need to become effective leaders.

Want more detailed information? Download our WhitePaper “How to develop your managers”.

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash