Saying ‘everyone else sucks’ is not leadership

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | fake images

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is not the type of executive who brags and humiliates his rivals. He’s been more measured since he replaced the outspoken Steve Ballmer seven years ago, forming alliances with rivals like Red Hat and Salesforce and even making it possible for people to use Amazon’s Alexa assistant on Windows operating systems.

On Thursday he expressed his more peaceful approach in words when asked by former Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes what leadership advice he gives within the company.

“Just saying, ‘Well my team is great and everyone else sucks,’ that’s not leadership,” Nadella said during an appearance at the Economic Summit hosted by the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research. “In a multi-stakeholder, multi-component world, you need to bring together people from within the company and from outside.”

In addition to standing out from Ballmer, who criticized the efforts of rivals like Apple and Google, Nadella also differs from his peers at other big tech companies, like Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff.

Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 while co-founder Bill Gates was still in charge. But Nadella is also different from Gates. In a 2013 Q&A on Reddit, he wrote that “seriously, Bing is the best product right now,” even though Google controlled market share in internet searches.

By contrast, Nadella’s Microsoft has become more tolerant of other forces in business. While open source software was considered a competition in the past, Microsoft bought the open source storage service GitHub for $ 7.5 billion in 2018, and the company incorporated the open source Linux operating system into Windows.

When Nadella sets himself apart from his rivals, he is less pronounced about it. He said at a Microsoft Ignite conference on Tuesday, for example, that “no customer wants to depend on a vendor that sells them technology at one end and competes with them at the other,” likely a reference to Amazon, which has competed with some of your cloud customers.

Here are some of the other leadership points Nadella brought up at the virtual event:

  • “Leaders have this innate ability to get into situations that are uncertain, ambiguous and bring clarity … Leaders are not people who get into a confusing situation and create more confusion. They actually create clarity, and that is something that leaders they absolutely have to be held accountable. “
  • “Leaders create energy. You know when you meet someone who is a leader because you go out and say, ‘Wow, I want to join the parade. I want to be part of that team.’
  • “Leaders don’t say, ‘Give me the perfect tone to perform.’ I can’t say, ‘Let me wait for the pandemic to end to show my leadership skills.’ In many cases, you have to take an overly restricted issue and break free, and release more particularly to the team he is leading, so they can continue to achieve things. “

Nadella said that no one will be perfect. But he does wonder if he’s better than yesterday.

CLOCK: Citi Names Microsoft Best Software Choice


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