01 Jun Leadership Lessons from Satya Nadella
“What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?”– Carol Dweck
Since Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he has changed the direction of the company. He has long term partnerships with Apple by releasing the Microsoft Office app for Apple’s iPhone, embracing the Linux operation system, and investing in Linked-In and Mojang. In late 2016, Microsoft stock hit its first new all-time high since 1999.
Nadella’s leadership values form the integral qualities of the actual company. He has a strong belief in the shared enduring purpose and mission amongst employees forming a whole company culture.
“Our mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more is really a look back to the very creation of Microsoft.”
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Nadella explained the need for a company to have an enduring mission which every individual can follow and support. Microsoft’s core mission is to create technology so others can create more technology to develop new ideas and achieve more potential.
By following this mission, Nadella believes that each employee takes responsibility for the company culture. Each individual and team contributes to the culture and the mission through their communication and actions within the company and in the company’s name – every person represents the company and forms a part of the culture. Therefore, the leader (or CEO) needs to set a strong mindset that can be followed by the rest of the employees as part of the company’s mission and overall culture.
“Create an environment, where everyone in the company can feel that they can bring their A-game and be respected for who they are.”
Nadella advocates the mindset of continual learning, following the theories of Carol Dweck from her book Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential. He asks what can a leader do to empower people and at the same time what you can do to empower yourself?
Nadella’s belief in continual learning ensures his employees can embrace hypothesis testing, trial and error which is vital to develop innovative new products and processes. In a risk-taking environment, Nadella advocates the need to renew ideas, and follow through a hypothesis even if it is not successful. This proved vital in a highly controversial social media experiment in 2016.
“Keep pushing, and know that I am with you … (The) key is to keep learning and improving.”
This quote was part of the email Nadella sent to the team involved with the Twitter Bot project Tay.ai which was an attempt to advance intelligence communication with humans on social media. Unfortunately, within twenty four hours, Tay adopted characteristics of other Twitter users interacting with “her” becoming racist and misogynist. Nadella shared the responsibility of this failed experiment by encouraging the team to learn from their mistakes and keep improving. This empowers the employees to have confidence to take risks and accept “failures” as experience and learning opportunities to move forward.
As Nadella says: “There’s no harm in claiming failure, if the hypothesis doesn’t work.”
Nadella stresses the need for positive reinforcement to develop the mindset of continual learning, and testing hypotheses to drive innovation rather than instigating a culture of fear of failure within a company.
“If people are doing things out of fear, it’s hard or impossible to actually drive any innovation.”
Nadella’s strong support of the mission to empower individuals and organizations to achieve more ensures that this purpose can be reflected in the behaviours of the company’s employees. In turn, the positive reinforcement towards experiments and learning from the results ensures the company culture reflects the integral enduring mission of Microsoft.