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Scott DeRue
Leadership professor

Scott DeRue

Scott DeRue is Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business. With Maxim Sytch, he created the student-driven Leadership Seminar discussion group.

It's not just China

Q. With Google ending self-censorship in China, the company stands to lose significant market-share in an enormous and growing market. Does it make sense for even the biggest firms to challenge political systems? When is it right for leaders to put a principled stand on human rights in front of their organization's self-interest?

For many reasons that we in the U.S. may not understand or agree with, the Chinese government values control over information. We have every right to express our concerns with the Chinese policy on information and censorship. At the same time, as a sovereign nation, China has every right to set policy and operate as it sees fit for the best interests of its people. Ultimately, our differences come down to divergent values.

Google values freedom of information. China does not. In my view, Google is not making a principled stand on human rights. Rather, Google is making a principled stand in service of its own core values. Finally, a company is living according to the values upon which it was founded, and the values that led many very talented people to choose Google as their place of employment. Google employees, you should be proud of your company.

At the end of the day, Google may lose some revenue in China due to its decision. But, in exchange, Google will reap the rewards for a values-based approach to leadership and decision-making, such as increased employee commitment and reputational benefits. According to research by Amy Edmondson and Sandra Cha, leaders who are hypocritical and do not lead according to company values promote employee cynicism and disenchantment.

For Google, losing the faith and commitment of its employees would be much worse than any dollar lost--or, in this case, a lost Chinese Yuan. So, be proud of Google for living up to its core values. That said, the next question for Google is...what are you going to do with your operations in the other 40+ countries that currently censor the Internet?

By Scott DeRue

 |  March 25, 2010; 10:44 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'Do no evil' | Next: Defining your loyalties

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