Bill Gates — Leadership Style & Principles
What are the leadership style & principles of Bill Gates, who is an American business mogul and is known to be one of the pioneers in the technology industry? How could we define his leadership traits and qualities?
Bill Gates is an interesting study when looking at leadership styles.
He is the antithesis of what one would expect from a leader. He dropped out of school, pursued a dream, and took risks based on his personal knowledge and creativity instead of what others had taught him.
If you believe in something strongly and one day or the other, you will end up attaining it.
When Bill Gates was in school, he used to brag to his teachers that he would be a millionaire by the age of 30 years and Bill Gates was a billionaire by the time he became 31 years old. So Bill Gates’ personality trait of far-sightedness could be seen in the early years of his life.
His commitments and influential leadership character will administer good lessons as we scrutinize our attitude towards successful leadership.
This is a factObviously, lessons learned from an individual who has been on Forbes list of the world’s richest people for over 31 years will be highly influential as we develop roadmaps and models to achieve success as leaders.
No one can say if he was born to be a leader, but his life’s work shows a pattern of actions that illustrate how he became a legend among historical leaders.
Bill Gates’ personality traits exhibit an ENTJ personality type. People with ENTJ personality type are often logical, critical, and objective. They tend to challenge others. Such personality types are decisive in nature. They are often known to be strategic visionaries.
While Bill Gates may not be as mythologized in popular culture as Steve Jobs, there’s no denying his impact on the tech world. And so, it’s noteworthy to study his leadership lessons.
With a knack for leadership and a passion for helping others, Bill Gates is a living inspiration to budding leaders around the world. Here are some of his greatest lessons and principles on leadership for you to learn from.
Many of us, hearing that Bill Gates started Microsoft out of his garage, would be inclined to think he was a kid with no prior knowledge who managed to start a multi-billion dollar business from those little experiments.
Before we start believing that overnight successes are possible, remember that even the richest man in the world got there through countless hours of hard work!
This is a factThe truth is Gates had considerable experience with programming and coding prior to starting Microsoft. It was his vast knowledge gleaned from years and years of hard work that allowed him to build the MS DOS software that launched Microsoft on its upward trajectory.
Most consider that Bill Gates doesn’t work much, yet he gets results. However, the reality is that he works smartly and doesn’t believe in showing off what he’s doing.
He has this habit since his college, and he says that he is trying to work on it. He says that nobody extolled him in college and his office because everyone feels that he works at the last moment.
A leader gets in there and rolls his sleeves up because success it is not just about thinking up a good idea.
This is a factLeadership requires the passion to put the effort into turning that good idea into a sustainable revenue machine. Even after Microsoft began gaining success, Bill Gates worked long days and nights on understanding the target audience and developing the products that would speak to their business, education and consumer needs.
There is an overload of ideas. The real gap is bringing ideas to market in a way that matters.
Take action. Execute. The problem isn’t a shortage of ideas, it’s execution. Lots of people have ideas. The secret sauce is ruthless prioritization of the ideas that make the most impact.
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Focusing on what you want and working towards it at every opportunity is the only way to reach your goals. No matter if it’s a new company or personal improvement, you will only make progress by throwing your heart and soul into it and never looking back.
Take Big Risks
When Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue his wild business idea, he was gambling with his future. He took a massive risk but made it work through patience, careful planning, and perseverance.
Change the world, or go home.
This is a factThere is rarely a perfectly built bridge between where you are and where you want to be. There is always a leap to be made, and sometimes you just have to push your doubts to the side and jump.
No matter what happens, a legendary leader continues to look forward, unfazed by any barriers or missteps along the way.
Despite Gates’ phenomenal success, he did have to contend with anti-trust litigation claiming that Microsoft was a monopoly. In 2011, after a 21-year battle in the court system, the case was finally put to rest after numerous threats to break the company up.
In the early 1980s, Bill Gates traveled around the country where they delivered seminars telling the audience how the graphic interface was to become the OS in the future.
Though nobody believed him at that time, it was only with the launch of MAC, the first commercially successful computer with GUI that people believed in his revolutionary idea. Bill Gates had a strong belief in his thoughts, and so he started working on it even when no one believed him.
Instead of staying in a zone of comfort, Bill Gates encouraged himself and his people to embrace creativity.
This is a factHis leadership style works to empower people because individual perspectives create new opportunities to explore ideas. Although some people followed him because of the charisma he exudes, many people followed him because they knew he could help them transform themselves into better leaders too.
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Bill Gates didn’t limit himself to the here and now, but looked beyond the present. When the rest of the world was content with the way things are going, he was quick to understand the impact of the internet and market conditions on Microsoft.
Greed Isn't Good
When you let the world know what you’re about, you become a lightening rod and you attract people with the same values. At Microsoft, Bill Gates attracted people with a passion for changing the world and joining him on a journey to help create better lives through technology and innovation.
Money is not the real motivator. If Gates was concerned about money, he would have stayed at Harvard, ensuring himself a future with a steady high income.
Instead, he pursued his dream of developing software for a new world of information usage that satisfied his passion and stimulated his mind. Bill Gates did not pursue money. Money came to him because he offered the world something of great value.
It’s always refreshing to see a billionaire who isn’t overcome with greed and prefers to share his wealth with those who are at a disadvantage.
This is a factIt serves as a reminder that money isn’t everything in life. After all, what is a great leader if not someone who helps others grow too? Even today, Bill Gates spends his days working to fund admirable causes ranging from education to eradicating Polio.
Don’t lose sight of the end in mind or the difference that makes the difference.
In his commencement speech at Harvard in 2007, Bill Gates spoke of the importance of turning caring into action to solve problems around the world. Bill says, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”
Success can easily cloud anyone’s judgment when it becomes a benchmark. This is totally not the case for Bill Gates.
This is a factBill Gates is a leader that lacks overconfidence and recognizes that his success should not bias business ethics. He does not believe in putting down his initial path to success, rather he prepares more to avert psychological challenges being successful can bring.
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We need leaders that remain connected to the real needs of people and stay close enough to pull everybody up with them, rather than robbing the poor folk and heading for the stars all by themselves.
Learn From Your Failures
While most people only celebrate success and consider failure as a fatal, Bill Gates thinks otherwise. Don’t repeat the same mistakes and don’t wallow in your wins.
You don’t revolutionize the world and become one of the richest people in the world without failing countless times along the way.
This is a factWhen Bill Gates was 15 years old, he and his friend Paul Allen started their first business with a program that tracked traffic in Seattle. The venture was a complete disaster, but it never stopped them from innovating again with Microsoft just a few years later.
Bill Gates has encountered pressing situations and a few bumps along the way that could have made anyone quit.
As the vast majority of great achievers would, he viewed failure and mistakes as an opportunity to learn something new and improve his expertise. It doesn’t matter how much mistakes you’ve made or the number of setbacks you’ve encountered, persistence never goes unpaid.
His story can teach us that, sometimes, even the things that we fail in can give us something for the future.
This is a factYou can learn something valuable that you can use to reach success. If Gates and Allen didn’t have Traf-O-Data, they might have not been able to know so much about microprocessors, and Microsoft might have not been what it is today.
If you’re starting a business and struggling to figure out how it is all going to work out, then take heart: You’re not alone. Even the richest man alive struggles sometimes.
Microsoft was already a big company when Google was founded in 1998, but the startup beat the Gates’ tech giant when it came to creating a clean search engine. Even Gates admitted this at the World Economic Forum in 2004, saying Google “kicked our butts.”
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When you encounter failure, tackle it head on and learn from your mistakes. Realize that every idea that pops up in your mind isn’t going to work. Above all else, be willing to learn and grow.
Time Is Valuable
One of Bill Gates’ famous quotes, “no matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time”. This implies that Bill Gates values every minute and prioritizes his daily activities to ensure a good influence in the most important.
Irrespective of how much success he has recorded his value for time has remained the same.
This is a factHe still believes in proper planning and leadership commitment knowing he has the same number of hours with everyone. Bill Gates and most other successful people make sure their time is being well used.
There is always a way to chunk up the problem and prioritize more effectively.
Whether it’s slicing the problem into versions over time, or simply taking the most meaningful or highest ROI pieces of the problem and tackling them first, you can make progress on the worst of problems or the best of opportunities.
According to an article by The Telegraph, Bill Gates breaks down tasks in small chunks, sometimes in five minute increments.
While that may work for him, who will often have to stop for a quick handshake with an important person, the lesson for us is clear: Time needs to be structured. One of the coolest tools in time management is called time boxing, where you will set aside a specific amount of time to get a particular task done.
When you schedule your time to get things done more efficiently, you will actually find you have a better work-life balance because you will waste less time on distractions.
This is a factIn other words, when you’re at work you should be working, so that when you are at home you can dedicate all of that time to your home life and being with your family or whatever else makes you happy.
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Warren Buffett eats and drinks the same things almost every day. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wear the same pants and shirts every day. By avoiding making small decisions that don’t matter whatsoever, they can spend more mental power on more important decisions.
Love What You Do
There is no denying the fact that Bill Gates put a lot of love into everything he did for the company. Even if the only thing he needed to do was write a thank you note, you were guaranteed a message that came straight from his heart.
Like many transformational leaders, the belief of Bill Gates is that if something is worth doing, then it is worth doing to the best of one’s ability.
This is a factIf you want to become successful like Bill Gates, don’t chase money. Don’t pursue opportunity after opportunity, searching for the million-dollar idea. You will lose focus on what you want for your own life and set yourself up for failure.
Passion for what you do will sustain you when things get tough and give you long-term motivation to achieve success.
From a Thank You note to innovating an existing product, Bill Gates handles all of them with excellence and passion. When something is worth doing, then it is worth his time, energy and money. His passion is evident on Microsoft products — they are constantly evolving to suit the needs of users.
If you have to work, make sure it is something you truly love doing. Don’t get stuck in an industry that does not interest you.
This is a factIt’s hard to imagine creating a strategy or inspiring others as a leader in an industry that just doesn’t ignite a passion inside you. If you are just in it for the money, it will show. However, when doing what you love you can enjoy every day and want to go to work, but you are also more likely to become successful.
Knowing something is much different than having wisdom. Passion makes the difference.
Bill Gates focuses on the one thing he knows best, which is software, and then he makes it the best it can become. He worked hard to dominate his industry, made execution a top priority, and stuck with the skills that he considered to be his strongest.
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Bill Gates thought up a long-term plan to become the successful leader at Microsoft, and in spite of unexpected hurdles along the way, he stuck to his plan to the end and never changed course. His focus was always on the future, making for a sound, resilient strategy.
Bill Gates has wisely discovered that you can have as much, if not more, happiness in giving as you do in taking. He decided to spend the rest of his life giving away his huge wealth to worthwhile causes like fighting AIDS in Africa and helping libraries in the US.
Leaders who find ways in which to give of their time, talent, and wealth tend to lead a more balanced and satisfied life than those who focus on just taking and accumulating.
When you hear Gates talk these days, you will hear a positive vision for raising the health and education standards of poor people around the world. This contrasts significantly with other rich business leaders who tend to talk mainly about the stocks, their business success, or just themselves.
Philanthropy and humanitarianism are two leadership roles very significant in the life of Bill Gates.
This is a factTo ensure the sustainability of his care for people, he founded Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations with his wife; an organization devoted to save lives and improve global health. Bill Gates believes his life would accomplish less if his energy and talent cannot serve as channels to improve many lives and the society at large.
His leadership role does not mean success for himself alone or his team members, but he’s working hard to ensure that others grow too. That’s a lesson worth learning.
Rather than having Bill Gates come up with ideas, he practices what is called “intellectual stimulation” where he encourages and empowers others to use creativity in situations where it is needed. With more creative minds comes more ways to solve problems.
Giving back to the community is a reflection of your character. The attitude you adopt will determine if you become a person of success or a person of significance.
There are a lot of people who are financially successful, but only few names are remembered. The ones we remember are those who have made a difference in the world that we live in.
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Over $28 billion has been donated to his foundation, with the goal of giving away $90 billion in time. That caring attitude was also present in the workplace, making sure people had the best possible opportunity to find success if they wanted it.
Today, as the #2 billionaire in the world as of 2020, according to Forbes, there is no question of his abilities and knowledge. As a former CEO of one of the biggest technology companies in the world, there is no doubt about his leadership skills as well.
His leadership style is often described as transformational and serves as a model for many of today’s entrepreneurs who are just as determined about what they are doing.
This is a factBill Gates provides an excellent model of how transformational qualities can help create a successful leader, but he also proves that the individual human spirit that all makes us unique and the influence of parents and mentors also play a critical role in creating the legends.
In my opinion, it is clear that Bill Gates fit the bill as a transformational leader.
This is a factHe doesn’t rule in a way that only his will and ideas are done, but rather encourage his followers to share his visions and help him realize them. An organization works more successfully this way.
Yet, being a leader like Bill Gates is not always easy. You must be willing to take risks.
There must be a personal desire to transform the workplace into a creative safe-haven where forward progress is a top priority. Include a little patience and you’ll find a recipe for leadership success.
To become a leader people admire and respect, you must become a person of significance.
People don’t follow you because you take from them; they follow you because you give to them. Strive to live a life that creates a difference in this world; give back more than you take, and you can look back at a true success.
So there it is — seven leadership lessons and principles from Bill Gates. We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Highlight your favorite bit of wisdom above or leave a reply in the comment section below.