Google recently applied its data-mining expertise to its own performance reviews and management-feedback surveys in a bid to establish the defining features of a good leader. To the company's surprise, technical expertise ranked dead last among the most-desirable traits, behind strategic communication and an ability to deliver results. "We'd always believed that to be a manager ... you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you. It turns out that that's absolutely the least important thing," says Laszlo Bock, vice president for "people operations."

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