A lot has been said about Satya Nadella’s turnaround of Microsoft, transforming it from a company many people viewed as outdated to one of the most valuable companies in the world with a strong culture. It could be the employee perks, new technology, or new customers, but what it really comes down to is this: Satya puts his people first. As I spoke with top CEOs from around the world for my new book, The Future Leader, Satya Nadella’s name constantly came up as a leader these CEOs admire. And for good reason: Satya is humble and people-focused and has a staggering 98% approval rating. By putting people first, he led an amazing turnaround at Microsoft and continues to guide it towards the future.
Here are three ways Satya Nadella puts his people first:
1. Creates a clear vision. Satya believes one of his main responsibilities is to create a clear, tangible, and inspiring message to move employees forward. He regularly communicates with all of Microsoft’s 156,000 employees around the world to share his transparent plans for the company’s future and invites their feedback. It’s not unusual for Satya to send a company-wide email with real ideas for the future, not just corporate fluff. He trusts his employees and regularly communicates a clear vision that he motivates them to follow.
2. Embraces the growth mindset. Satya is known for embodying the growth mindset—the idea that challenges are opportunities and people can grow, change, and develop new skills. He encourages employees throughout Microsoft to embrace “learn-it-all” curiosity and experiment with passion projects and innovative ideas. When mistakes happen, Satya uses a gentle, empathetic approach to encourage employees to re-work their designs and try again. He’s been known to take the fall for employees’ mistakes to give them a chance to learn, grow, and re-tool their ideas.
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3. Showcases employee success. Satya begins his weekly senior leadership team meetings with a segment he calls “Researcher of the Amazing” that showcases employee success from around the world. On many occasions, employee teams join the meeting via video to demonstrate their developments and inspire the leadership team. Instead of putting himself first, Satya steps aside to share his employees’ successes as a way to inspire the rest of the company before they jump into hard numbers.
Leading a big company doesn’t have to come with a big ego—in fact, a big ego can be detrimental to the success of the company. Satya Nadella shows that even the leader of a huge tech company can—and should—put people first. Taking an empathetic and gentle approach to value each employee and encourage them to be and do their best drives a culture of innovation and collaboration at Microsoft, which has been a huge reason for the company’s turnaround since Nadella took the helm.
I hope you can implement some ideas from Satya’s leadership style in your own organization to put people first.
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