Lessons Learned From Bill Gates - InformationWeek
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6/27/2008
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Lessons Learned From Bill Gates

Today is Bill Gates' last day as a full time employee of Microsoft, the company he built into a software giant. It's hard to even imagine that Microsoft was ever a small business but it had the same humble beginnings as nearly all companies. It also had an extraordinary leader in Gates and it is there that smaller businesses could learn a lot.

Today is Bill Gates' last day as a full time employee of Microsoft, the company he built into a software giant. It's hard to even imagine that Microsoft was ever a small business but it had the same humble beginnings as nearly all companies. It also had an extraordinary leader in Gates and it is there that smaller businesses could learn a lot.InformationWeek's Cora Nucci has rounded up the traits that marked Bill Gates' leadership and, not surprisingly, they start with his toughness. Nucci quotes Barbara Darrow, whom she terms a veteran Microsoft observer who covered the company for years, who says: "It's said that Microsoft was built on innovation and coding, but really it was outlawyering IBM."

Flexibility and a willingness to learn are next on the list followed by "financial mojo" and persuasive powers. Of course a "lofty" ambition and "dogged" determination make the list but so do a common touch and the all-important sense of humor -- something Nucci correctly terms one of the most "undervalued characteristics a corporate leader can have." How many of you running smaller businesses agree with that one?

(This last point is demonstrated most clearly in some videos Nucci posts of Gates spoofing Napolean Dynamite:

And of Gates spoofing his last day of work at Microsoft:

Nucci notes that IW's Alex Wolfe believes Gates will ultimately run for public office. He may be right: These videos also indicate that Gates clearly relishes being in the public eye  and that he has good comic timing.)

Gates' "big picture memos" analyzed by Benjamin J. Romano at The Seattle Times are another valuable way for smaller businesses to get some insight into what kind of thinking it takes to grow a company.

Romano explains: "He wrote a series of course-setting memos to lead the company in these new directions  a new computer interface, the Internet, computer security. They stand as signposts at several key junctures in Microsoft's history."

Of course Gates surrounded himself with other smart guys and as one commenter to Nucci's article puts it, he had "the luck of being in the right place at the right time."

Not every smaller business dreams of being the next Microsoft but almost everyone wants success in some form. Bill Gates figured out a way to achieve phenomenal success and it wouldn't hurt to give his formula some consideration.

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