04 November 2014

Vanity Fair: “The Empire Reboots”

Nadella, despite his long career at Microsoft—and his similarities to Gates—is in fundamental ways a break from the past. He has had his executive team read Nonviolent Communication. (The title speaks for itself.) He’s a genuinely nice person, with a wide smile that cannot be faked. He is liked by people who have worked for him, by his peers, and by those who were above him. Everyone likes Satya, says one former Microsoft executive. You cannot dislike Satya. Bill loves him. Steve loves him. Satya is clearly a morally good person. You want to get behind him, says Greg Sullivan, who is the director of the Windows Phone division.

He actually talks to people outside the company, from competitors to venture capitalists. This is unusual in a company that people describe as insular. You talk about the rise and fall of empires or families or anything; being insular is the best way to sort of kill yourself, says Nadella. Bethany McLean

Long and informative article about the uneasy power balance between Gates and Ballmer and the struggle to find a new leader that could potentially steer Microsoft back into the dominant position it enjoyed a couple of years ago. But the part that stuck out the most for me was this internal characterization of the new CEO, Satya Nadella, as “the nice guy”. As much as it’s more enjoyable to work for a boss you like, I’m not sure this quality will help him achieve the turnaround and reform Microsoft needs. Big businesses are usually built by ruthless, ambitious, demanding individuals, not by conciliators. Ballmer’s advice (Be bold and be right.) seems more appropriate.

Interestingly, similar things are said behind the scenes about ’s new almost-CEO, Sundar Pichai:

Everyone whom Business Insider talked to about Pichai emphasized that the exec was very empathetic; he actually cares about people. One former employee even said that Sundar was without a doubt, one of the best people I’ve worked with, adding that when he decided to leave Google for a startup, Pichai was incredibly supportive and offered to help in any way he could.

Jillian D'Onfro

Update: And they are apparently willing to put aside past rivalries between Google and Microsoft and collaborate! (or at least be civil in public). The idea crossed my mind while writing this article, but it seemed too far-fetched, so I was reluctant to put it in writing. We live in interesting times…

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