The CEO baton at Microsoft has been passed from Steve Ballmer to Satya Nadella, making Nadella the third CEO in Microsoft’s well-publicized history. You may not think that this will have an impact on your business, but considering how intertwined Microsoft is with the the global economy, you may be surprised to learn that this move will affect your company.
One of the biggest changes that Nadella brings to Microsoft is with his leadership style. Whereas Ballmer’s larger-than-life personality was on full display in speeches where he rallied Microsoft employees with raw emotion, Nadella’s approach to leadership has been described as laid back and even collegial. You may be thinking that trading a cutthroat CEO for one that’s more collaborative won’t really change how you do business, but you don’t have to look any further than Windows 8 to see how a CEO’s leadership style can trickle down to the experience of millions of PC users around the world.
Love it or hate it, the release of Windows 8 was shrouded in controversy because its design was so different than what consumers were used to in a Windows OS. During the launch of Windows 8, loyal Microsoft users expressed frustration with Microsoft’s commitment to not make requested changes to the new OS. Instead, Microsoft basically told their users that they need to, “Get used to it.”
As seen in the lower-than-expected sales figures of Windows 8, this “our way or the highway” approach isn’t the appropriate tone for a software company losing market share to user-friendly companies like Apple and Google. Ultimately, the Windows 8 experience, and the tone of its marketing, can be traced all the way back to the uncompromising leadership style of Steve Ballmer.
In fact, Ballmer’s personality may have been too competitive for him to seriously consider the business opportunities presented from collaborating with Microsoft’s competitors. One example of Ballmer’s feelings towards his competitors was seen when he gave a company speech at Seattle’s Safeco field in 2009. In the middle of his speech, Ballmer snatched an iPhone from the hands of a Microsoft employee and pretended to stomp it.
In an age where users are less concerned about brand loyalty as they are with user experience, Nadella brings with him a more collaborative approach to business that sees the value of working with competitors. Richard Metheny, a management coach for executive search firm Witt/Kieffer had this to say about the future of Microsoft after looking at Nadella, “He’s open to ideas, open to others. Perhaps he’ll have the ability to get Microsoft to loosen up a little and focus on innovation rather than be accused of bringing in a solution that brings in money immediately.”
Nadella has already eliminated a bell-curve employee review system implemented by Bill Gates that made the Microsoft work environment notoriously competitive, and perhaps even slightly dysfunctional compared to today’s approaches to business management. USA today reports that, “Nadella has already indicated that innovation will be key for Microsoft and in another collaborative turn, he asked Gates to increase his time at the company to help plot future strategy, to which Gates agreed. Nadella has said repeatedly since being named CEO that the technology industry ‘doesn’t respect tradition.'”
For your business, this may mean a future with technology from Microsoft that will work across different platforms, and you may find future business technologies from Microsoft to be more innovative, instead of yet another upgrade to what’s always worked for Microsoft. If you’re a business that likes taking advantage of new technology trends in order to gain the competitive edge, then Satya Nadella may be your guy.