Commentary

Does Google's Culture Foster Leadership?

Wael-Ghonim

Remember the political activist Wael Ghonim who took a role in overthrowing Egypt's government earlier this year? The 30-year-old Google executive on Saturday said he would take a sabbatical from the search engine to start something new. In a tweet on Twitter he wrote: "Decided to take a long term sabbatical from @Google & start a technology focused NGO to help fight poverty & foster education in #Egypt."

It appears that Ghonim, who spearheaded Google's marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, already has plenty of supporters. Ahmed Khaled tweeted that he's ready to volunteer. A tweet from Nabil Shalaby wants to provide help from the group @ARENHO, which would "offer entrepreneurs and SMEs a wide range of services and products."

Time magazine named Ghonim one of the top 100 most influential people in the world last week. The article cites his ability to tap into social networks such as Facebook and others as "communication tools to mobilize and develop ideas."

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Ghonim isn't No. 50 on Time's list. He sits at the top above Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, and British Royalty Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"By emphasizing that the regime would listen only when citizens exercised their right of peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience, Wael helped initiate a call for a peaceful revolution," writes Mohamed ElBaradei, Egyptian politician and author of the Time article.

During a talk at Stanford, Ghonim said: "I want to feel that I have a voice in my country...I wish that corruption is fought in my country...I want teachers to make students love learning," according to The Stanford Daily.

Ghonim went missing after participating in the first few anti-government protests in Egypt. The Egyptian government finally confirmed that it held Ghonim and released him shortly after. He started a popular Facebook page that many credited, in part, with the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Does the power and influence gained by Ghonim lead back to Google, the Mountain View, Calif. search engine started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Did the company's culture foster and nurture a leader? Would Ghonim have achieved his role as activist and influencer without taking the step through Google?

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