Lessons On Leadership from Microsoft’s CEO

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What’s it take to be a transformative leader?

Today, Microsoft is the #1 company by market capitalization; the last time it held that position was 2002. In a recent article in INC Magazine, Terence Mauri notes that its CEO, Satya Nadella, just celebrated his fifth anniversary in this position. He’s successful because he adopts a long-term perspective: planting seeds for the future, reinventing today while building tomorrow, and rethinking everything including culture, operations, strategy and talent.

He offers three top winning rules to future-proof a business which Nadella advocates:

1. Lead with Culture.

How are decisions made and what kind of culture do you aspire to have? A winning culture means encourages people growth for people over products. He changed the corporate mission from “a computer on every desk in every home” to “empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.” Teams are encouraged to focus to think of 42 year old Microsoft as a challenger organization with day one in its DNA; you must think and act like 10,000-person startup, because fast eats slow.

2. Act Quickly, Think Slowly.

In a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), Nadella is a long-term thinker who embraces new trends and weak signals early to stay ahead of the curve. He values high-speed decision making, where 80 percent confidence is enough to act; 100 percent certainty before making a decision is too slow a pace. As a result, Azure Cloud Services, for example, accounts for 32% of total revenue, with usage doubling last year.

3. Learn-It-All Beats Know-It-All.

In 2014, when Nadella became Microsoft’s new CEO and declared the new game was to be a “learn-it-all” company rather than a “know-it-all” one. Every day is a new day, with learning, exploring, and experimenting as the norm. This means asking three powerful questions:

  • How successful are we at creating new products, services, or business models?
  • How effective are we at adapting to new changes or disruptions?
  • Does our culture reward risk, learning, and smart failure?  

With today’s economic slowdown and a recession possibly on the horizon, now is the time to step-up and become a transformative leader. What are you doing to be a transformative leader capable of still maintaining growth in the near future? Share your recipe for success!