Bill Gates is one of the most charismatic and inspirational leaders that the 21st century has witnessed. Gates has been regularly featuring in Forbes Top 100 lists and was recently ranked as the richest person in America. Also, he has been bestowed with various awards including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service, Bower Award for Business Leadership and more. There is no denying that Bill Gates has had a very powerful impact on the world, and that he has led from the front. It is Bill Gates foresight and vision regarding personal computing that has been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry as a whole. Microsoft windows stands today as the world’s most successful OS only because of the exceptional leadership of Bill Gates (Mumford, 2013). The story of how Bill Gates, a student of Harvard University, dropped out to start one of the most successful company is probably known to everyone, in this report however we look at leadership qualities of bill Gates that made him so successful.
While growing up, Bill Gates was fascinated by computers and used to spent most of his time learning how to program. Bill Gates was aware that success cannot be achieved overnight and requires a lot of hard work. Pursuing his passion, he spent years working from his garage, coding and writing programs (Pavur, 2012). Even after setting up Microsoft and tasting initial success, Gates used to put in long working hours to understand his target audience and develop products that would speak to their business.
Bill Gates understood that a leader should not be static and must be dynamic in his thinking. Microsoft continued to evolve under Gates to stay relevant. Gates knew that for Microsoft to maintain its leadership position, they had to continually improve and stay ahead of the competition. They didn’t just rely on software packages but also added Microsoft Office, a web browser and enterprise solutions to their product lines (Day, 2010). Gates was the major driving force behind diversification of the Microsoft product line. This was the understanding he followed, and thus continuously brought in new product ideas and thus created a successful company.
A complete analysis of Bill Gates would be incomplete without looking at the philanthropic and humanitarian efforts of bill gates. Bill Gates along with his wife Melinda Gates have taken the giving pledge where they have pledged to use majority of their financial wealth for philanthropic and charitable causes. Billions of dollars have been donated to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for charitable causes all over the world. They have provided an entirely new direction to philanthropy by tackling global issues like malaria, cancer and AIDS. Gates ability to envision philanthropic goals can be seen in the treatment of malaria. He has a clear goal of eradicating malaria, and he’s laid out a well-defined strategy. His abilities to envision and strategize are what make him a great leader (Serfontein, 2012).
Some of the leadership qualities in Bill Gates are as follows:
Focus: This is probably one of the most important qualities that a leader must possess. It is paramount that one remains focused on the goal. A good leader always asks his followers to focus on a particular goal. Bill Gates always remained focused on the software industry. He could have ventured into other industries with the kind of success and resources he got, but he choose not to and focused on being the best in his field (Serfontein, 2012). He continued to focus on software and programming. He very well understood that the most important thing is to stick to one’s core competence.
Clear Thinking: It is very significant that leaders have a clear thought about what they want to achieve. Bill Gates always dreamt big and pursued his objective with determination. He always thought of competing with the largest of companies and never deviated from his thought. This is one of the most important traits that is needed in a leader.
Passion: Bill Gates passion for software and computers is known to everyone. Even today after 30 years, he is pursuing his passion with utmost vigor. Continuous innovation and the hunger to create the perfect products can still be seen in his products. His leaderships skills combined with passion has helped him in attracting the very best latent because they believed in Bill Gates. He has single handedly created a worldwide operating software industry that any other company could not.
Continuous Learning: A person must always strive to learn new things. Knowledge should be continuously improved and that is exactly what Bill Gates has done thought out his life. He still strives to learn from everyone (Serfontein, 2012).
Not to be deterred by failure: Bill Gates has always maintained that actions speak louder than words. He always believed that whatever odds a person faces he should never be saddened. Bill Gates had cases against him in the court but that did not stop him from chasing his dream, making great successful products. Eventually he did emerged as a winner and that’s what makes him a great leader.
Bill Gates has a transformational leadership style. He is a visionary leader who has introduced lot of changes at Microsoft. He was able to transform the computing industry. The trait approach theory could be used to explain the leadership style of Bill Gates. The trait approach, suggests that certain persons are born with special traits that make them great leaders. Some of the strongest traits that Bill Gates has displayed are intelligence, skillfulness and competiveness, Determination, high integrity and sociable. If we look at the Leadership Style of Bill Gates, he is Task-oriented, Autocratic, Delegation and Transformational. As per the Fielder’s model there are two types of leaders: task-oriented leaders and relation- oriented leaders. Bill Gates has proved to be a task-oriented leader who expects performance from his employees and believes work is more important than relation building to achieve the goals of the company. Bill Gates has also displayed an Autocratic leadership. Control is central to Bill Gates nature and the way he handles management. Bill Gates has very good knowledge about his work and thus likes to take every decision and decide on every major decision. Bill Gates was not used to delegation and was initially reluctant to delegate work. But with time he has understood the importance of delegation and has formed a team of capable managers and thus now delegates most of his work. Bill Gates has always had more technical competence than interpersonal skills. With experience he has adopted traits of a transformational leader whereby he tries to appeal to employees by motivation and support.
It is important to analyze the leadership power of Bill Gates. In terms of power that he enjoys because of his position as the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates uses Rational Persuasion when dealing with high-level managers. Bill Gates also enjoys reward power which includes his ability to influence others thorough rewards. Bill Gates can decide employees’ increments and promotions. However, like a true leader, he has established a system in the organization and all the employee activities like appraisals are handled in a systematic manner through appraisals (Corbridge, 2010).
Bill gates also had access to Coercive Power, which involves the use of punishment & withholding rewards to influence compliance. Although Bill Gates is an autocratic leader, he has never made threats to employees & has never used coercion with employees for personal gains. Bill Gates also enjoys a high level of Expert Power because of his extensive skill and subject knowledge. Bill gates also enjoys a high degree of Referent Power which is a measure of a leader’s personal relationships with others influential and significant leaders (Hanson, 2015). It is seen that employees stay at Microsoft for longer tenure than most of the other companies. Having looked at the leadership style of Bill gates, let us look at some of the positives from the particular leadership style of Bill Gates. Bill Gates paid utmost attention to details, which has helped create an environment of high effectiveness and efficiency. Because of his delegation, which he was able to do because of rigorous hiring process, he has been able to create a strong pool of future leaders. Also, because gates possess a high level of expertise and knowledge, he is able to gain loyalty and trust of the employees.
Next we look at the skill approach of analyzing a leader, which is a leader centric approach that emphasizes the competencies of the leader. Bill Gates has a very strong skill set that comprised of effective strategic planning skill, communication skills, Teamwork skills and Motivation skills (Aguinis, 2013). Bill gates is a task oriented person and very passionate towards his work.
If we have a look at the contingency and Situational leadership theory, leadership style is a choice of skills, traits and behavior employed by leaders to communicate with followers. Leaders ca then be categorized as autocratic, democratic or laissez fairs styles. Bill Gates displays an autocratic leadership trait. Gates has established a clear chain of command in the organization. Bill Gates generally employs a more direct approach towards employees and usually prefers to tell his employee what to do and there is very little freedom given to employees. Great man theory says that Leaders are born to lead and they cannot be created. Bill Gates is certainly one leader that exhibited leadership traits from the very beginning. According to the contingency theory, effective leadership is contingent on matching the leader’s style to the right setting i.e. a leader must match its leadership style with that of the setting in which he is operating (Javidan, 2012). Bill Gates has displayed a task-oriented approach where he has mostly focused on completion of task at hand. Also, transactional leadership theory states that a leader ensures that his followers comply by making use of rewards and punishments. Whereas transformational leadership theory states that a leader does not only looks at day to day operation of the company but also looks at crafting a long term strategy for the company. Bill Gates has displayed a mix of transactional and transformational leadership. In the initial years he was more focused on transactional leadership wherein he was more focused on day-to-day work (Morse, 2010). But with time he realized the importance of strategizing and took a more transformational approach to leadership.
So far we have seen the exceptional leadership skills of Bill Gates, but the leadership of Bill Gates is not without limitations. Bill Gates was of dominating nature, which at times hindered his follower’s ability to relate with him. Add to that the constant pressure exerted by him on his subordinates for results, made him unpopular among employees. Although Bill Gates showed traits of a charismatic and transformational leader he lacked employee relations. Employee relation is one aspect that a leader of Bill Gates stature could have improved (Babbitt, 2014). He is always said to be much more focused on work and less focused on employee welfare. That is another aspect that could be improved. Also, though out the life of Microsoft, there had been several litigations and Microsoft has lost several cases thus leading to some questions over the aggressive philosophy of Bill Gates. Another major criticism that is often heard is that Microsoft was not an innovative company. People argued that Bill Gates only updated existing products and never really invented new products (Williams, 2010). Also there is criticism that Bill Gates was so focused on winning that he never allowed the competition to Build. He would either purchase the competing company in the initial stage or would completely altogether kill the competition. This never allowed the operating industry to completely innovate.
There is a lot to learn from the leadership attributes of Bill Gates. The above paper discusses the leadership style and attribute of Bill Gates. One of the leadership theories says that a leader is one who has multiple followers. Without followers it is difficult to judge the success of leaders. Bill Gates in that regard is an effective leader as almost the entire world not only follows him but also holds him in high regards. The exemplary skills and mindset that Bill Gates possesses makes him one of the most influential transformational leaders of the 21st century. He has proved to be a charismatic and visionary leader. He knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and he focused all his energy on it. His unmatched passion and zeal to achieve the best helped him become a millionaire first and then richest man of the world for 13 continuous years. He has already achieved a high degree of success with his business venture. Now he has put his mind to Philanthropy. Bill Gates has dedicated a lot of time and finances in helping the emerging economies like Brazil, Africa and countries in Asia. He is now a global citizen touching the lives of hundreds of millions of people through his generosity. With the exceptional leadership qualities that Bill Gates possesses he is sure to taste success in philanthropy as well. As a 17 years old boy Bill Gates was quoted as “wanting to rule the world”. Today, Bill Gates is one person that can truly be said to have conquered the world.
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