Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been making headlines consistently over the past year, and 2024 has started off with a strong momentum. This is due to the significant progress the company has made in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). By partnering with OpenAI, led by Sam Altman, Microsoft has positioned itself as a frontrunner in the race against other tech giants like Google, Meta Platforms, and Amazon, who are now playing catch up. Notably, Apple, the biggest rival of them all, has yet to enter the race. With AI poised to revolutionize the world in countless ways, Nadella’s leadership in this domain alone would secure his place among the top tech CEOs, alongside Apple’s founder Steve Jobs.
However, there is more to it. In Nadella’s case, success is twofold. The first is success in terms of products and the second is success in creating value for shareholders. And having led Microsoft into the $3 billion market cap range, beating Apple itself, Nadella’s victory spans both segments. And at the same time, legacy products like the Windows operating system are also flourishing.
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So what really makes Nadella such a successful CEO? Here’s a list of the many ways he’s reinvigorated the tech giant after taking over what was considered a dormant giant when former CEO Steve Ballmer stepped down.
The biggest bet
Not wanting to just bask in the glory of the Microsoft Windows operating system, almost at the beginning of his journey in 2014, Nadella quickly turned the forest giant to power the Azure cloud computing platform. It immediately opened up a new revenue stream as the investment paid off and the dependence on the Windows platform was reduced. Not only that, recently it was a master when he got an exciting startup like OpenAI to tie up with Microsoft and commit to Azure.
Another big decision made at the time was to abandon the company’s attempts to crack the smartphone market, which Ballmer had focused a lot of Microsoft’s energy and money on – which didn’t pay off at all. Ballmer had even bought the iconic Nokia company for more than 7 billion dollars. However, Nadella has recently gone on the record saying that this is a decision he now regrets.
Avoid the spotlight
All this was achieved without hype or big announcements, he just seemed to gather the Microsoft employees, explained his game plan and asked them to work more collaboratively than the previous competitive approach.
Nadella’s ability to get things done without playing it all out in the media has also earned him credit. The same was evident when he handled the surprise firing of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI and managed to bring him back with no visible consequences or bad press. In fact, he became a wise and professional elder who disciplined his young charges and set them back on course.
Cooperation over competition
As for his personal approach and relationship with employees, Nadella respects everyone, then listens patiently and then explains to them what he thinks the future holds and how Microsoft should conquer it.
Believe in your vision
Nadella has shown that if he puts his mind to something, he pursues it with full focus and energy. While Nadella may have a rather cooperative approach, as is evident when dealing with employees or others like OpenAI, he has not hesitated to give his killer instincts free rein, especially when it comes to takeovers. This was most recently seen in the Activision Blizzard takeover. His testimony ensured that Microsoft did not commit the kind of antitrust that most analysts had feared would prevent the deal from going through.
Mostly positives, but one setback
Although success has overshadowed him throughout his career, there were certain setbacks, none more glaring than when Russian and Chinese hackers managed to penetrate supposedly impregnable Microsoft Office tools – the emails of US government and Microsoft officials were handled. In fact, it showed that the company was willing to sacrifice security on the altar of success.
Basically, Nadella focuses on innovation, but above all on growth, and everything that comes in the way is quickly given up. He’s a change maker, and as things stand and seeing how comfortable he is with himself and acting in public, he’ll be at Microsoft for a long time and solidify his position to be at the top of the list of greatest CEOs of all time alongside the iconic Jobs.
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