The 3 things Google's Larry Page and Epic's Judy Faulkner have in common

In their respective industries, Larry Page and Judy Faulkner could be considered celebrities. They sit in the chief executive position of arguably the most successful search engine and health IT companies, respectively. But beyond that, their public personas — or lack thereof — and approach to leadership are quite similar, and may offer insight at what it takes to be a successful leader.

1. Business comes first.  
Conor Dougherty, the Google beat report for The New York Times wrote a piece on his attempts to interview and further understand Mr. Page, co-founder and CEO of Google. He writes he has been trying to get an interview with Mr. Page since roughly August 2014, when he started covering the beat. "I've been waiting ever since," he writes.

Similarly, Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems, is rare to grant a media interview. Although she has been more active in the press this past year than ever before — she spoke with Becker's Hospital Review twice since February 2015 — Epic historically didn't pay much mind to any marketing or public outreach.

In one of those interviews, Becker's asked Ms. Faulkner about the secret behind Epic's marketing-free success, and she said there is no strategy behind it. "When I started the company, I had no idea how to do marketing, so we just didn't do it," she said. "What I did know, because I was a technical person, is to be able to write good software. So we focused on writing good software, and we focused on doing good support. And then fortunately, word of mouth did the rest."

Mr. Page reportedly doesn't often grant media interviews, but he does speak to the public at large, typically at staged events such as TED talks, according to Mr. Dougherty.

The same can be said for Ms. Faulkner, who every year dons a character costume to speak at Epic's Annual User Meeting. In 2015, she was dressed as Lucille Ball to fit the meeting's "A Classic Episode" theme. The year before, she wore a flannel shirt, coveralls and work boots to fit the "Down on the Farm" theme, according to The Capital Times.

Keeping distance from the press, especially for such prominent individuals, isn't an indication of something sinister, as Mr. Dougherty suggests.

"I want to say loud and clear that I don't think Mr. Page or any other business leader has a responsibility to talk to the press," Mr. Dougherty continues. "He is a busy man and his media shyness probably should not be confused with reclusion."

And both Mr. Page and Ms. Faulkner certainly are busy, running successful, billion-dollar companies. Google reported $66 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2014, and Epic's 2014 revenue was estimated at $1.8 billion.

According to Mr. Dougherty's NYT report, more than 1 billion individuals use six Google products. That means one in every seven people use one of these products.

In the health IT industry, Epic has a similar presence in hospitals and physicians offices. The vendor reports 355 customers, and in June 2015, it says 15.3 million patient records were exchanged on its Care Everywhere network, including to and from Epic EHRs, non-Epic EHRs, health information exchanges and government agencies. Additionally, it is the third most-used vendor hospitals and health systems use to attest to meaningful use, following MEDITECH and Cerner, according to March 2015 data from ONC.

2. They are fierce do-gooders.
Both Mr. Page and Ms. Faulkner's ideas of success extend beyond the boundaries of their corporations. These two leaders are keen on leaving legacies extending beyond Internet searches and medical software, evidenced by their commitment to philanthropy.

Mr. Dougherty says Mr. Page characterizes Google as a nonprofit instead of a corporation. He points to a 2014 Charlie Rose interview in which Mr. Page said he wants to support endeavors "to back up humanity," specifically Tesla founder Elon Musk's vision to go to Mars, reports Wired. Mr. Page commented in the interview that Mr. Musk's vision is a goal worthy of exploration. "That's a company, and that's philanthropical," he said.

Ms. Faulkner, who Forbes listed among on its 2015 list of the wealthiest individuals in the country, also has philanthropic ideas for her assets. In June 2015, Ms. Faulkner joined the Giving Pledge and pledged 99 percent of her assets to philanthropy.

3. Their strength is in their people.
And, the two leaders appear to deeply care about their employees. Mr. Dougherty says in interviews with former Google employees, Mr. Page's concern for employees and how they can contribute to Google became clear. "A number of recently departed Googlers told me that after they gave notice, Mr. Page personally asked them to stay. They said that, during these conversations, he honestly laid out his concerns and aspirations for the company and its future," he writes.

When Becker's spoke with Ms. Faulkner in early 2015, she also commented on the wellbeing of her employees. Becker's asked what Ms. Faulkner hopes employees internalize during their tenure at Epic, and she responded with two things: roots and wings.

"For roots, I mean caring, honesty, keeping commitments; those basic roots there that are fundamental," she said. "And wings, I mean being proactive. Taking ownership over a project and doing it well."

Final thoughts
Mr. Page and Ms. Faulkner aren’t the only leaders with these characteristics, but they certainly contribute to the wild success two individuals whose vision, business acumen and commitment to their mission have landed them at the top of the ranks.

The two appear to be paving the road for future generations to carry on their legacies. Their businesses stand on solid ground today, and Mr. Page and Ms. Faulkner’s philanthropic endeavors are an investment in the future. Thirdly, Mr. Page and Mr. Faulkner have expressed direct concern for their employees, the very ones who will carry on their legacy and their work in the years to come.

Google and Epic wouldn’t be what they are now without Mr. Page and Ms. Faulkner, but the two are positioning the companies in such a way that they can continue to thrive even when they are no longer in the C-suite. And that is a defining characteristic of a leader: Doing something bigger than one’s self.

More articles on leadership:

7 thoughts on great leadership
50 things to know about Epic and Judy Faulkner
This story about a janitor in Johns Hopkins is a must-read for any hospital executive

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