Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Behind the scenes Leadership


History is full of examples of powerful and charismatic leaders who have changed the world.  Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Abe Lincoln were at the forefront of their respective movements. In business, Jack Welch comes to mind as someone who transformed a huge corporation and was recognized as a huge factor in his firm’s success.

As we look over to Silicon Valley we see the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the symbols of their respective corporations. The impact these men have had on their on their respective organizations can still be seen today in the way they are run and perceived. It is impossible to talk about Apple products without mentioning Steve Jobs. The focus of today’s discussion is a leader who is different. Neal Mohan - A quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy who has changed the landscape of the internet advertising industry without many people noticing. Mind you, he is very well known and respected in the Silicon Valley. His work is as innovative and as powerful as the work done by the some of the leaders mentioned above. But he is not as popular as his larger-than-life counterparts.

Stanford-educated Mohan began his career at Accenture. His career in Silicon Valley began with him joining NetGravity in the early days of the internet revolution. He was hired because he had knowledge about the internet and was a technology enthusiast. His company was soon acquired by Double Click which he left briefly and joined again. Double Click went through a period of turmoil when their merger with Abacus Direct did not go as planned. He came back to the company and devised a strategy with his CEO to drive revenues. His efforts bore fruit and Google acquired the firm in 2007 for $3.1 billion.

Mohan is a thought-leader and a visionary having an innate capability to understand people’s behavior and reactions. Traces of a document, which Mohan helped create when he was creating a strategy for DoubleClick are still seen today at Google. He saw how display advertising would be a huge business, which is it today and he believes that there is a lot more to come.

Another reason why Mohan is so successful is the autonomy provided to him by Google.  It is believed that his boss Susan Wojcicki (who implemented AdSense in Google) gives him a lot of freedom and backing. In fact, when DoubleClick was taken over by Google, she pushed for DoubleClick’s management to replace the currently existing team working on Display Advertising at Google, which forced out another innovator Gokul Rajaram who ended up at Facebook and is doing great things there. But Mohan has delivered and made intelligent acquisitions at the right time. His acquisition of Invite Media was timely and opportunistic.

Mohan was in the news recently as Twitter had offered him a role as their Chief Product Manager, which he declined. Google reportedly paid him $100 million in equity to make him stay. Regardless of the compensation I believe that he would have wanted to stay at Google. Google has provided him with a culture of innovation, a good working environment, complete autonomy, healthy compensation but most of all, a chance to change the world. Such is Mohan’s knowledge, experience and influence that he can easily become the CEO of another tech company in Silicon Valley but I believe what Google offers him is unique.

People have described him as a quiet individual who is not confrontational. Also he is very meticulous, customer-centric and does not like to waste time. According a collegue, he could communicate a strategy very well regardless of the audience as he had good knowledge of the technology which wet behind the product as well as the products far-reaching consequences.  

Mohan’s success is not only because of his hardwork and ideas but also because of the environment provided to him by Google. I feel that high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley like Google, have created a new kind of leader – a shrewd visionary working behind the scenes to make the right decisions at the right time.

Google has many such leaders who have contributed to its success.

Sources –
1.       Carlson, Nicholas. "Google Paid This Man $100 Million: Here's His Story." Business Insider. Business Insider, 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
2.       Rothenberg, Randall. "An Advertising Power, but Just What Does Doubleclick Do?" An Advertising Power, but Just What Does Doubleclick Do? New York Times, Spring 1999. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
3.       Exchangewire. "Neal Mohan Discusses The Recent Changes To The DoubleClick Ad Exchange." ExchangeWirecom RSS. Exchangewire EMEA, 26 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.

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