[December 21, 2018] There’s an adage that says that a person with the greatest regrets in life is one who fails to make a commitment when they had the chance. By that measure, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, should be proud of his accomplishments, but in his case, that is not the case. Pichai and many of Google’s senior executives are looked upon as moral cowards by just about everybody; something they are regretting right about now.
“New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.” – David Wong, the pen name of Jason Pargin, American humor writer
Google had a rough year, one rife with high-profile controversies. Last week, Sundar Pichai testified before the U.S. Congress in a well-rehearsed effort that came off as a missed opportunity for him to explain how the company is improving its many platforms. Some of these issues are the protection of its users’ privacy, the secretive Project Dragonfly censorship with China, first assisting U.S. intelligence agencies and then stopping it, its diversity-at-all-costs philosophy, restricting politically conservative speech, the radicalization on-line in its video platform YouTube, censorship of employees, and the list goes on and on.
Some have described Google’s CEO as milquetoast; timid to a company known for its boldness, innovativeness, and openness. Now he is also being called a coward in the face of these controversies that he had his hand in pushing. But, people now ask whether he and other Google senior leaders are moral cowards of their time or are they just like any other executive looking to make a buck off the backs of workers?
Being a senior leader is a tough job. It requires both extensive and relevant experience as well as a refined level of leadership training. Compared to most CEOs, Pichai lacks the experience it will take for him to steer Google around the minefields in a sea of unknowns, expanding problems for IT/media companies, and evolving ethical standards. He is a very smart man and is known for his tough stances.
Unfortunately, for many senior executives who have found themselves and their companies in the kind of scenarios we have with Google, these men and women simply were neither sufficiently flexible nor ethical enough to do the right thing by their company, their employees, or the country.
For this reason, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his senior-most executives have been called out for their lack of morally-centered decisions. It’s not the technology that is good or evil but how Google has decided to use it. For future generations who grow up with true leaders at the helm, they will be able to look back on Google’s senior leadership and learn the many lessons presented by the state of affairs Google has found itself.