How Nadella can make an impact as new Microsoft CEO?


This week it was announced that Bill Gates is stepping down as Microsoft chairman to focus more on products and technology at the company. Gates will play a secondary role now to Satya Nadella, whom Microsoft has named as its new chief executive. Nadella will also be under a special type of pressure – the pressure of global visibility – all eyes will be on him. The first 100 days is the classic window of establishment but, in reality, leaders don’t have 100 days of comfort. Maybe 10.

As Nadella takes the helm, here are a few pointers on how to make the right impact as a new leader:

Firstly the core elements need to be effective

There are two essentials defining leaders - What they do and Who they are. In other words the actions of leaders and what type of leader they are is quite distinct.

What good leaders DO is have consistent clarity of direction and purpose. They know what they want to achieve and make sure that everyone else understands this direction. Great leaders have a unifying purpose; they bring everyone to the cause and everyone feels that they are part of the cause. This is where Winston Churchill was exceptional.
Good leaders also have the determination to follow through no matter what objections stand in the way and people can see that determination at all times. To be these things means that good leaders are resilient, creative, versatile and tough; leaders have to be able to withstand headwinds of all sorts.

WHO leaders are is the hidden but most vital ingredient. Great and effective leaders are very aware of their environment. They know themselves and they understand others very well. They understand the broadest context of all of their decisions and they know the likely impact. They seek to understand and ultimately are very clear about the challenges that stand in the way.

Above all, great leaders are authentic; they are real and other people see them as that. They are not acting but are behaving naturally. They are also serving; they serve the cause and they serve people around them, above them and crucially below them too. This is an alien leadership concept to many, but the effectiveness of leaders who serve those beneath them compared to those that only serve those above is enormous. Eisenhower really understood this; so too does Julian Richer of Richer Sounds. This is vital: it speaks of their intent and genuine purpose.

They also have really good presence. This is not just about charisma but also about being seen to be leading at all times: they are on the job 24/7 and part of that job is taking the temperature of the people around them. They listen and act on what they learn, not just what they think.

So what does Nadella have to do in his first 100 days?

1. Create a plan

Think first: what is it he is trying to do...what's going on, where is he, what does he need to do first, and why?...A lot of things are going to go untouched for long periods of time, so where does he want to spend his time?
He needs to use the first 100 days to build the basic plan that will take the business beyond the next few weeks and months. This will address each of the major elements including strategy, structure, work processes, leadership, culture, etc.
* Work: the basic, inherent tasks that need to be done.
* People: the characteristics of the individuals within the organisation who perform the work.
* Formal organisation: the various structures, processes and systems that are created to help the team and individuals perform their roles.
* Informal organisation: the behavioural norms, patterns of influence and communications and other aspects of the team culture.

2. Evaluating personal attributes

Once he has the roadmap in place, he will need to consciously think about what role he will own and what roles he will delegate. This requires a deliberate and candid self-assessment of personal traits so he can be clear about how to be most effective in the context of the role.

3. Engage key constituencies

To achieve his goals, he must actively involve people in planning new directions and implementing his roadmap at their levels. Once he identifies his key intents, he needs to constantly reinforce them by effectively communicating them to all stakeholders. During his first 100 days each constituency may experience heightened uncertainty about the future and will compensate by making increased demands upon him. He should focus personal energy and attention on the demands of a limited group: those that no one else in the organisation can address adequately.

4. Extending his leadership reach

He will need to build and leverage his management team and the board: to be successful, the management team must become an extension of his personal leadership, a force that projects his vision, values, objectives and requirements. They must collectively share the values and mission of the business and have the expertise to drive it forward to achieve its objectives.

5. Heeding red flags

Now that he has plotted his course for a successful tenure as CEO, he must keep in mind things that have the potential to trip him up somewhere along the line if he doesn't pay attention to them. He will also need to avoid the ‘Saviour Syndrome’: leaders often assume a role where they become the psychological focal point for many of their staff; in an almost mystical way, they become the personal embodiment of the institution, its values, its beliefs and its future. This is of course unhelpfully reinforced by external stakeholders and media. While this can be a tremendous strength, it can be a double-edged sword if taken to the extreme. Leaders must refrain from taking on all the issues and resist the tendency to be the organisation’s saviour.

6. Avoid the shadow

Gates' presence and shadow will be felt for a very long time. However, Nadella must totally ignore this factor and be his own man and lead in such a way that everyone accepts the new and different leadership.


Stephen Archer is business analyst and director of Spring Partnerships