A person is known by his creation. Mention the name of Bill Gates and what follows immediately is ‘Microsoft’! Today MS operating system is part of almost every personal computer even as I am now typing in MS Word! Co-founder of ‘Microsoft Corporation’, William Henry Gates III is not just a software developer, but also an author, a great leader, and a philanthropist! Lets learn more about Bill Gates leadership style and qualities we can learn from him.
A great leader not just lays the foundation to any successful venture, he also adds on to its finishing touches, while continuously working on its maintenance. A leader is constantly with his team. At this point, we are reminded of EM Kelly’s famous quote:
When a boss says “Go”, a leader says “Let’s go”!Tweet
The success of Bill Gates’ venture can be attributed to his great leadership qualities. Eager to learn more? But before that, let’s first take a quick peek into his journey so far.
The journey of Bill Gates
Bill gates born on October 28, 1955, was attracted towards software programming and also did great at school in every subject. He enrolled himself at Harvard University. At the time though, he was unable to pursue his college degree, as he opted to start his own computer software company. He was later awarded a PhD degree at his University. Since 1987, he has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people and held on to the position of the richest person in the world for 14 years (1995-2003)!
Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen in 1975 in New Mexico. The example he set with his ideas and vision, eventually attracted like-minded geniuses to his firm. Today Microsoft produces over 101 products ranging from Windows Operating System, Xbox Game Studios, to platforms publishing books (Microsoft Press), or holding virtual meetings through MS Teams.
Prediction of pandemics in 2014 TED talk by Bill Gates
As an instance to site his strong vision, we saw him predict in a TED talk in 2014, about serious pandemics due to new and emerging viruses and how they could startle us while we remain unprepared to tackle them; and lo! Shortly after his prediction, the Corona virus pandemic of titanic magnitude has real enough shaken the whole world for over a year already!
Vision has the power to logically forecast rather than just prophesy by chance! Have you ever tried playing chess with an expert player or have you been an expert player yourself? In either case you will know how the next move on the chessboard is not just about a single move but about the move being backed by at least 5 other moves based on the opponent’s thought process. When the power of such vision is fortified by strong ideas, a leader is made!
Did you know a leadership quality is not a single trait? There are several strategies that may set apart approaches in what is grossly termed ‘leadership’. There is no limit to leadership styles one can adopt or create. An individual may arrive at his/her own formula. By this time, we are curious to know the leadership approaches Bill Gates adopted in order to raise his company to the heights we find it today.
Before we confine our discussion with the unique leadership traits devised by Bill Gates, we need to introduce ourselves to some basic leadership styles. The reason for this is we find at least some of the features from the many styles listed that are imbibed into his unique formula of leadership. Let’s start unfolding them.
Primary Leadership Styles
Autocratic style is the classic type where there is one person making a command and the rest of the team simply follows. There is little or no scope for inputs from team members. This kind of a leadership works given circumstances such as this:
Let us say there is a surprise attack by an enemy troop. The army in defense has to fight back quickly by taking crucial, appropriate, and quick decisions. At this point, the army general plans the operation for the team and commands its execution. It is but rational to adopt this kind of leadership style in such a scenario!
Here there is an experienced leader with a set goal and has good vision about attaining this goal and takes ample time to explain his objective to his team and then with their strength, exercises his/her strategy. I guess an example for this kind of leadership would be that during the freedom struggle where great leaders would confidently gather the strength of youth and together march toward the goal.
In this kind of leadership, the team members make all the decisions and report to the leaders who have little role to play. The leader only takes the responsibility of the failures or successes of the team, but does not make any decisions nor solves the problems the individual members may face. The team members have complete freedom to take their own steps but do not get the credit/dis-credit, as it lies with the leader.
In this approach, the leader simply acts as someone who shapes ideas got by various team members. This type works best when the leader taps the unique potential of every team member and translates it to innovation for his company as a whole. It works best in companies trying to affirm their niche in the competitive business world.
This leadership style is driven by high performing leaders who set a pace and high-end target to make the team arrive at it. While one may think it could be stressful and draining, it could actually be a necessity during crisis. Take for instance the sudden crisis of the Corona virus pandemic. Pace-setters gathered energetic teams in vaccine research in order to arrive at quick, effective, safe, and affordable vaccines within just a year’s time!
Coaching style leaders present novel approaches to their team members. Rather than dictate, they convince them about the unique potential in every member and how far they can stretch their own abilities in order to emerge winners. We may consider the example of how a coach brings out the unexplored talents of sportspersons and shapes these talents into appealing skills that make them victorious.
Corrective leadership is about carefully introspecting on what could possibly have gone wrong in an unsuccessful venture and implementing corrective measures for immediate effect. This leadership allows little scope for experimenting as the priority is to quickly restore what is lost.
This leadership stands true to its name and is based on the tagline: Rewards for performance and demotion for lethargy. The idea creates a competitive environment among team members to enable productivity to be measured on a new scale!
A transformational leadership is a mix of many. While the leader here is a role model and provides a perfect vision to the members, there is ample room for the members to execute their own ideas as well. Doesn’t this sound as an ideal combination for enhanced performance?
Bill Gates Leadership style
Now that we know how leadership styles come in various forms, it is interesting to note that Bill Gates’ majorly adopted the transformational type of leadership style, while switching between autocratic, delegative, and visionary styles as the need demanded.
What are Bill Gates’ key leadership qualities? No words would possibly suffice if we sit to pen down every detail, however, we can go ahead listing out the key principles as follows:
To Aim High
Bill Gates has always believed in dreaming big. An engine consumes more fuel when it is about to start itself. A leader’s foremost role is just this. To be able to dream big is the foremost principle that sets the stage for achievements within the team. Without this unique ability, the team does not get the jump start to catapult new ideas.
Team reliance is an essential leadership skill where the leader showcases trust within the team members and this in turn builds confidence among them. Confidence is not built merely on motivational lectures, but by the action of boldly implementing propositions coming from team members, on behalf of the company. Bill Gates practiced this and succeeded in instilling the motto of passionate contribution from the team.
This trait is the essence of transformational leadership. Bill Gates has always believed that the purpose of hiring a range of employees is to have a wide spectrum of ideas to choose from. There is no point in just dictating terms to a team, as that would simply result in burying of new ideas. Instead, a leader must hire a strong team to get valuable suggestions. When and how to apply these propositions is the leader’s job. Sounds easy? Not really as it is one of the hardest to practice!
To Focus and Persevere
Bill Gates decided the object of focus for his company. The endeavours that would follow hence would be based on that main focus only. No failures or successes would make the company deviate away from the focus. This ensured having a firm grip on the specialization niche of services or products offered by ‘Microsoft Corporation’. To persevere is to work hard based on the focus. Bill Gates worked relentlessly, even if it meant burning the midnight oil!
Continuous Learning and Growth
Bill Gates has never ever rested on the accolades of success. He never looks back on achievements, rather looks forward to march towards new targets that he sets. Even at the peak of success, he has never been misled into believing that he has the complete know-how. He believes in continuously learning from people and incorporating these new concepts within himself. This leads to continuous growth! This way, when a transformational leader keeps growing through learning, the reflection is seen in the image of team success.
Embracing alike positive and negative customer feedbacks
At a point of time, when most business would simply focus on their products, customers were left with mere alternatives and no choice! Bill Gates chose to make his products customer-centric. He would never lose his valuable customers. This meant giving weightage to customer feed backs and responses. He would embrace both positive and negative feedbacks in equal light and then make the essential changes in the next products. Holding on to established customers, automatically attract new customers. This ensured his company continuously evolved in the market to stay on top.
Society and Environment
Being a businessman, a scientist, a physician, an engineer, an academician, or of any other profession, does not alienate one from the responsibilities of being in a society and caring for the environment.
Bill Gates took to philanthropy with his wife Melinda Gates through Bill and ‘Melinda Gates Foundation’ since 1994, and have given approximately 45.5 billion dollars to charitable causes. The charity basically works to uplift people from hunger and health issues and helps lead better quality lives. This service spreads immense positivity around. What goes round come back too!
Bill Gates cares for the environment and in the book authored by him named: ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he provides a guide to tackle global warming issue’. He even donated funds more than 1 billion dollars to invest in producing clean energy.
Conclusion: Bill Gates leadership style
Bill Gates admitted that to be on the success tracks of leadership, he learnt to surrender his obsession of programming and began trusting in the ability of his employees for coding. Delegating tasks, learning from mistakes, problem-solving, and caring for the employees, have been some qualities he imbibed in the process of his magnate leadership journey.
So, what is it about leadership that makes it so challenging in today’s world? It is all about running to stand still to find that right balance! It is about constantly being on the move to stay still and secure at the top position in the market!
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Article Credit: Bill Gates leadership style
This article is contributed by Ms Preeti Tambraparni, post graduate in microbiology with a certification in clinical research. Her expertise are writing personal blog in life science related topics and health blog.
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