Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and served as its Chief Executive Officer form the time the original partnership was incorporated in 1981 until January 2000. Then he resigned as Chief Executive Officer and took on the position of Chief Software Architect. Mr. Gates has served as Chairman of the Board since the company’s incorporation. Bill Gates is recognized as the youngest self-made billionaire in history. His windows operating system, runs the vast majority of personal computers throughout the United States. It is obvious that it takes a certain type of person to successfully create and maintain such a profitable organization. However, when closely examined, Gates’ leadership characteristics are somewhat surprising. The way in which he directs his corporation is unique, and yet, still extremely prosperous. For a man to dropout of a prestigious university such as Harvard in chase of his dream, one must be devout in his pursuit.
Gates has always believed in his goal and has never stopped striving for perfection. This sort of aim for fulfillment has a tendency to rub-off on others closely tied to Gates. In fact, others have cited this charismatic leadership as a major key to Microsoft’s success. Microsoft’s success depends on dedicated workers who have enormous faith in a charismatic leader, claims Scott Winkler, an analyst at Gartner Group: ‘Bill tells them to do something and they do it. They believe in him. He’s never let them down in the past. The corporate culture is that Bill’s always right.’ Gates recognizes the need to have others, as well as he, focus on the group’s vision and he realizes that it is the leader’s responsibility to inspire his subordinates by leading by example. Charismatic leaders understand that they alone cannot make the vision a reality; they need their followers’ help and support to create organizational or societal changes. Gates definitely sought the support and wisdom of others when in the process of building the company. He worked hands on with his fellow employees, identifying and correcting problems with software and continually setting and reaching long-term goals.
The primary influence process is personal identification, which is influence derived from a follower’s desire to please and imitate the leader. Charismatic leaders appear so extraordinary, due to their strategic insight, strong convictions, self-confidence, unconventional behavior and dynamic energy, that the subordinates idolize these leaders and want to become like them. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is within the Microsoft camp were the so-called Bill Clones, extremely brilliant, young, and recent college graduates, who were hired as managers. So strong was the admiration of Gates that these young men began to emulate their leader in almost every way. Jeff Raikes soon had the patented Gates mannerisms down pat. Raikes was quickly named Clone Number One in Microsoft circles. A Stanford MBA, Raikes had migrated from Cupertino, where he had headed up the software effort on the ill-fated Apple III and had gained a reputation as a firefighter for taking on tough software assignments.
Gates uses extraordinary discretion when hiring applicants to work for Microsoft. He wants to ensure that every single person shares the same prospectus for the corporation, yet in their own way, have personal beliefs that they are willing to stubbornly stick to. His aim is not to create clones within the organization, but to stockpile it with as much imaginative genius has possible. It is only a credit to his charismatic qualities that such extremely bright people wish to emulate Gates in every way. Bill Gates is moody, and he is the first to admit it. Gates’ temperament can sometimes cause him to be an inefficient leader, especially when it affects his listening. One of Gates administrative assistants, Estelle Mathers, had this to say about the CEO’s personality. Bill is moody. He told somebody once that one of the things he loved so much about me was that I knew when to leave him alone. If you tended to interrupt him at a bad time, you could get hurt. However, it is also important to note that Gates expected the same sort of tenacity from his colleagues. Mathers goes on to add, He liked it when you stood up to him. I remember banging my fist on the desk one day, and he banged back, and I banged back. If you backed down from Bill, he wouldn’t have respect for you.
Despite his domineering characteristics, Gates understands the importance of avoiding an overly aggressive attitude but maintaining assertiveness in leadership. An assertive leader is able to stand for their own rights, or their group’s rights in a way that also recognizes the concurrent right of others to do the same. Gates is notably opinionated, and upon occasion has been noted to be remarkably stubborn. Yet, Gates continues to recognize the quality of minds that he has assembled at Microsoft and the ideas that originate from his staff. Gates has learned to hear out his subordinates no matter how different their personal notions may be. For example, when Rowland Hanson, vice president of corporate communications, suggested spending $50,000 on an awareness and attitude study, a heated debate between Gates and himself ensued. Gates and Hanson battled back and forth. Then at one of their Monday-morning strategy meetings with Microsoft’s other top executives the bickering came to a head. ‘We’re not going to do it,’ Gates shouted. Hanson pressed on. ‘I need to proceed with this research,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to get it done in time, and I have ad schedules to make. A lot of this is going to be used.’ Right then in front of everybody, Gates reversed his position. ‘You’re right,’ Gates said. ‘Let’s do it.’ ‘That’s why Gates’ was so successful,’ Hanson would later reflect. ‘His ability to turn on a dime, and to listen to the smart people he surrounded himself with.’ Another fine example of affective listening and encouragement of suggestions from all persons involved in the company was Gates’ fondness of feedback.
The following is a memo released to all employees in 1994. If you have a problem you don’t think is getting resolved, well, you are not only allowed to, you are encouraged to talk to your manager’s manager, your manager’s manager’s, manager, or whatever it takes to get that opinion heard. You are encouraged to use electronic mail if it is too intimidating or threatening to go see your manager. And there should be no retaliation of any kind associated with the act. Bill Gates is dependable, and this trait has been the cornerstone of his personality. Even his critics must admit that you can count on Gates to pursue his beliefs with a bulldog-like mentality. He is a high achiever and continually practices what he preaches. Gates’ management style as been described as Darwinian, survival of the fittest. Gates defines his style in this way. When I was preparing to take my company public, I arranged to distribute an unusually large share of ownership to employees. It was a way of letting them know how much their performance mattered. The flip side of rewarding performance is making sure that employees who don’t contribute are carefully managed or reassigned. Employees need to see that their peers are really strong and that if someone isn’t carrying his or her weight, an adjustment will be made.
Of course, Gates expects, and in some cases demands hard work and dedication. Gates is himself a tireless worker, and at times he finds it hard to rationalize why anyone else would want to devout any considerable amount of time to anything else but work. This has been one of the primary points of criticism of Gates’ leadership. The term Microsoft Syndrome is one Gates does not like to mention, but it has been floating around the company now for several years. The Microsoft Syndrome is a process that begins to surface in employees around their second or third year with the company. They begin to believe that the company is using them and although it is not official policy, many people support the concept that Microsoft is looking to push people to work very hard.
It cannot be argued that Microsoft is the most successful computer company ever to come about. Bill Gates has done a remarkable job in leading the corporation from its meager beginnings in 1977, in which the company consisted of three employees, to the premium status that it enjoys today. The journey has not been without its share of obstacles, and no matter how far Gates has pursued, they are still many roadblocks in his future. Gates has demonstrated however, the ability to foresee potential pitfalls before they occur and his leadership style has worked favorable to this point. There is no doubt Bill Gates is an extremely intelligent, wealthy and powerful man. This is why he has leaded this company to so much success.