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Bill Gates – Leadership Analysis

Bill Gates – Leadership Analysis
Leadership and its styles have become one of the most controversial topics of
today’s world. Entrepreneurs are looked at as leaders and it is a must to categorize
them and decipher their personality traits. However, first it is very important to
understand what leadership means and what are these traits that we can subject
leaders to. Richard Bolden has noted down several quotes from scholars stating what
leadership means to them. According to Richard, leadership is a subjective matter and
depending on the way it is looked at, every person can have a different opinion about
what leadership is. Therefore, if one view suggests that leadership does not mean to
coerce people but is a trait that influences people to pursue socially acceptable
objectives then people such as Hitler or Sadaam Hussein cannot be considered as
leaders as they were fighting for their personal agendas (Bolden, 2004). One of the
quotes Bolden mentioned by Kellerman described that the need to understanding what
leadership means is not important. Kellerman quoted,” “Scholars should remind us
that leadership is not a moral concept. Leaders are like the rest of us: trustworthy and
deceitful, cowardly and brave, greedy and generous. To assume that all leaders are
good people is to be willfully blind to the reality of the human condition, and it
severely limits our scope for becoming more effective at leadership.” (Bolden, 2004)
One such realistic and influential leader is Bill Gates, the founder, technology advisor
and board member of the Microsoft Corporation, which is a company that provides
software solutions and helps people and businesses to overcome obstacles (Microsoft,
Bill Gates was born on 28 October 1955 in Seattle. His late father, William
(H.) Gates II was an attorney and his late mother; Mary Gates was a school teacher at
the University of Washington. (Microsoft, 2014). He enrolled into Harvard in 1973
and found his passion for computers. He learnt about the first microcomputer and
realized how convenient it would be to have one in every workplace. Therefore, Gates
dropped out of Harvard in his junior year and pursued his dreams by starting
Microsoft in 1975. (Microsoft, 2014)
Bill Gates has been aspiring leader who has led his company to become the
most technologically advance in the world. According to his biography, his mission
was to “improve software such that it would be easy, cost-effective and make
computers more fun to use” (Microsoft, 2014). He has successfully pursued his dream
and has led Microsoft to thriving heights under his leadership. Besides being a leader
Bill Gates is a devoted philanthropist as well and travels frequently with his wife,
Melinda Gates to places that require health attention of learning care.
Bill Gates has an array of varying personalities, that will be further discussed
in this analysis stating the leadership styles and theories that best fit Bill Gates and
shape him to be the leader he is. A BBC news article has described Bill Gates in the
following words “Gates has come to be known for his aggressive business tactics and
confrontational style of management" (January 26, 2004). According to university
lectures, the traits of a new leader include the need for empowerment in a leader and
humbleness. A leader should be diverse in his decision and make those decisions
ethically. Gates had the above-mentioned traits and did not hire or judge people based
on their race and gender but on their ability to do well. When Bill Gates hired,
Rowland Hanson, former vice president of Neutrogena, he was so sure he wanted to
hire him, despite the fact that Rowland knew absolutely nothing about computers. But
Gates believed that if Rowland could sell hand lotion he could sell anything.
(Edstorm, Eller, 32-42). Not only diverse, but Bill Gates has been described as a
powerful leader who willed himself into making his dreams come true (Lunenberg,
2012). There are a handful of people in this world who have been believed to have
done the same. According to Fred Lunenberg, power is the ability to influence.
Therefore, leadership requires power, as it may be a coercive or a non-coercive way
of influencing people, to lead them to their work outcomes (Lunenberg, 2012). Bill
Gates had a vision in mind to start Microsoft and provide and easy and interactive
way to use computers. He took the decision to drop out of school and started his
company with a handful of people until Rowland came up with the idea of
transforming Microsoft into a brand and its software into Windows (Edstorm, Eller,
32-42). Rowland couldn’t alone do this though, he needed the influence and power
Gates had, only Gates could convince his team to go forward with the strategies and
turn Microsoft into one of the most recognized brands in the world. (Edstorm, Eller,
32-42). This further means that Bill Gates falls into the Great Man Theory of
leadership, which suggests that a man has to be powerful and influential to be able to
make a difference. (Bowerman, Montgomery, & Wart 2010). The traits that make up
the personality of a person play a significant role in defining a person’s leadership
style. Bill Gates was known to be an influential leader who was highly demanding but
allowed the freedom of creativity and innovation, rewarding teams and accepting an
individual for his work (Gilliard, n.d) Moreover, he is known to be an authoritative
leader who falls under the authoritarian style of leadership as he is quick to make
decision and trusts his instincts instead of conducting a brain-storming session to
select an option with lower risk (Gilliard, n.d). Furthermore, Bill Gates has presented
actions that confirm his traits as a leader in this society. He has always encouraged
future leader to follow their passion and has called failure to be a learning lesson.
Despite his riches, he has never given up on learning and growing in his career. A
recent Forbes article stated how he has been making an effort to improve his public
speaking skills (Forbes, 2014). Moreover, he continues to learn from his peers and
looks up to personalities like Warren Buffet to always keep learning from them
(Hedeyati, n.d).
Fielder’s contingency theory suggests that a leader is action oriented and
functional when it comes to his traits therefor, Bill Gates being an autocratic leader in
his Behavioral approach, falls under the category of being an action oriented leader.
He derives power and authority from his position and is a coerce leader who takes
quick decisions.
Bill Gates is an extremely competitive and driven person. Moreover, he is
very intelligent and was quite stubborn as a child (Carter, 2014) His was a fast-learner
as he quickly adapted to the knowledge of different softwares and was quick in
applying the theories at Microsoft. Not only was he passionate but from the beginning
he laid eyes on the computer at Harvard he had a strong vision to ease the use of
computers and dreamt of having one in his office ever since (Carter 2014). His
development interview from Microsoft suggest how he always wanted to develop his
team to its full potential so that he could reach out and achieve his goals (Hedeyati,
n.d) He is quick on making decisions showing his self-confidence and willingness to
pursue his ability to understand computers.
Physical and personal traits do not make a leader but his or her qualities do.
Bill Gates is an exceptional leader because he possessed most of the qualities in a
great leader. According to an article posted in BusinessWeek, Bill Gates is an
extremely optimistic person who believes world poverty can end. He is self-confident
as he makes quick decisions and trusts his instincts as well. Furthermore, he is an
extremely task-oriented person (Nahavandi, 2009) who is a workaholic and very
focus on his own job and is the only one who can initiate a structure in the company.
He is not people oriented; however he accepts his employee’s ideas and values them.
He once quoted, “if you take the top 20 employees away from Microsoft, our company
is worth nothing".(Vitalities, 2014) This suggests he understand the worth of his
employees and recognizes the efforts they make towards the company but when it
comes to making decisions he is the kind of leader that stands his own. Bill Gates has
influenced several people throughout his life and has many followers that look up to
him and work for him. The different followership styles listed in our book allow us to
determine what kind of followers have helped Bill Gates in making Microsoft
successful and without such the company would truly be worth nothing. Amongst all
the different types of followers, Bill Gates is for the most part followed by effective
followers. Effective followers are critical thinkers who can work independently on an
idea and will find the best way to solve a conflict or serve the organization. Bill
Gates’ followers are great examples for being effective followers. Rowland Hanson
can be one such example, despite knowing very little about computers, he had a great
hand in transforming Microsoft in a brand name that lead to success (Edstorm, Eller,
32-42). Furthermore, people that work for him and follow him at the Gates foundation
are effective in their tactics as well. Cristina Liu, finance manager for the Gates
foundation manages all the finances daily and consults with all the partners to explain
the numbers and current trends in the market (Gates Foundation, n.d). In Addition,
there is Luis Montero who is the Senior Comunication officer of the foundation and
helps the foundation make connections and grow with time. He makes the important
connections with the health and development departments to find areas of need that
may require the help of the foundation (Gates Foundation, n.d). These people are
great examples of effective followers that have been employed by Bill and are
dedicated to their work and follow the leadership of Gates.
Furthermore, Bill Gates has always been known as an aggressive person as he
once reportedly fired the first President of Microsoft on the first year of his job
(Bowerman, Montgomery, & Wart 2010). Therefore, he is regarded as a noncharismatic leader who is more impactful rather than impressive. Thus further proving
that Gates is an autocratic in his approach as he is a High-task Low-relationship
leader who is more focused on his work and steers clear of distractions. In Addition,
Gates has always been compared to other aspiring leaders such as Steve Jobs and
even Mark Zuckerberg but he has stood out for reasons that he has left Microsoft
behind but still continues to be its leader (Wessel 2011). When comparing other
leader have always been worried about their legacy when its time to leave it behind.
Apple’s Steve Jobs did because Apple was his legacy and he was nothing if not for
Apple Inc. However, Bill Gates has moved forward, left Microsoft behind and is
creating newer legacies with his wife Melinda Gates (Wesel, 2011). The two of them
have created a foundation to help the poor and needy people of this world. The
foundation has given away approximately $25 billion, which is more than Apple Inc’s
market capitalization worth (Wessel, 2011).
The recently elected Satya Nadella, is the third CEO of Microsoft. He too
believes Bill Gates to be an exceptional leader and his first request was to be able to
learn more about the company from Gates. Nadella said that he learnt the most
important lesson of leadership from Bill, which in his own words was, “Bill is the
most analytically rigorous person. He’s always very well prepared, and in the first
five seconds of a meeting he’ll find some logical flaw in something I’ve shown him.
I’ll wonder, how can it be that I pour in all this energy and still I didn’t see
something? In the beginning, I used to say, “I’m really intimidated by him.” But he’s
actually quite grounded. You can push back on him. He’ll argue with you vigorously
for a couple of minutes, and then he’ll be the first person to say, “Oh, you’re right.”
Both Bill and Steve share this. They pressure-test you. They test your conviction.”
(Nisen, 2014) According to further statements from Satya Nadella, he believes Bill
Gates to the leader that motivates employees and gives them the energy to perform
their tasks (Nisen, 2014). Bill Gates is a believer in moving forward and is always
looking to make a change, that why when a person or employee talks about how
things were previously done, Gates thinks this is a trap that can decrease the ability of
a person to think outside the box and move forward to face challenges (Nisen, 2014)
One of the essential methods used to describe a leader and his personality are
the big five personality traits, which include extroversion, agreeableness, openness to
experience, emotional stability and Conscientiousness. Describing Bill Gates in each
of these traits can help determine if he is an emergent leader or an effective leader.
Bill Gates is a dominating and autocratic boss who is task-oriented and focuses
greatly on getting his job done as quickly as possible, therefore, he displays high on
being an extrovert. Furthermore, he has been a visionary since he was very young and
encourages creativity in his employees as well, therefore being highly open to
experience. Not only did Gates show himself to be an extremely responsible person
by starting his own company but he also took up the task of leading it to success in
turn being high in conscientiousness.
Bill Gates always appear to be put together and in control of him by being an
emotionally stable person. Although, he is not exactly agreeable since he is not known
to be a very friendly person, he is still philanthropic and cares for the poor and needy
enough to seem emphatic. (Daft, 2007) He was once reported to have said, “I hope
you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will
judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how
well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people
a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity” (Bloomberg
Businessweek) Through statements such as this he continues to show his desire to
lead the people of this world into being humanitarians and displays his affection for
the people in need.
He is truly a phenomenal leader and a role model for endless people as he has
succeeded in achieving his dreams. Some might argue that Bill gates has thrived on
situation based leadership as he came into developing computers when people had the
most need for them (Burns, 1978). However, his intelligence and leadership traits
have helped him see his vision through, making him one of the richest men in the
world and an optimistic philanthropist who wants to end the reign of poverty.
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