Originally published on LinkedIn 1-1-2020

 

Although there are about 8 leadership styles according to this Hubspot article, most leaders and managers fall into two distinct categories; both of which are exhibited via soft or hard power. Soft power induces natural respect (reverence) and hard power demands respect (authoritative). Please share current or past experiences, as it relates to your boss. Let’s start 2020 by letting it all out.

This article is about leadership, and how the actions of an effective leader improves a corporation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) rating, as well as influence its Net Promoter Score (NPS); both of which affect the stock price positively. Sometimes true, other times false; what people whisper behind a CEO’s back reverberates beyond the corridors. A leader’s tangible and intangible qualities are the criteria which attract young recruits, mid-level and C-Suite executives. External perception and office chatter carry significant weight in people’s minds. As a leader, one’s personality really shines through, hence, if there’s a whiff of the adage “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” it will show because one’s character is put to the test daily. Hence the reason, top leaders do the calculus in their heads before speaking. While some debate Niccolo Machiavelli’s “it is better to be feared than loved,” the consensus remains, people despise working in toxic environments. They hate it all the more because their bills, as well as family’s next meal depends on going to an office which drains their lives and pollutes their soul. Toxic environments affect productivity, stifle creativity, increase attrition and most important; it makes employees feel like obsequious factotums. ** If you work for or love Microsoft, likes and comments will be appreciated and disagreements are okay.**

Microsoft’s Soul [is] Its New Killer App

How can a macro-soul ensure Microsoft’s success? A micro or macro-soul does not only ensure Microsoft’s success, it possesses the potential to ensure the success of other companies too, and it makes for a better world. Once the soul, aka macro-soul is introduced into a host; meaning possessed by a person, or inserted into a machine/corporation, everything changes. How so? That’s because the person, machine or corporation now has a good source as its operating system or moral navigation guide. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) aka one’s brain, communicates with the heart, which is connected to the soul. Hence, it is incorruptible by a virus or external attacks. The incorruptibility reference simply means the leader will always do the right thing, or at least, more often than they do wrong for corporate gain. Hmm! that sounds like naivete thinking. A great example to prove it’s not is Elon Musk. Barring his love of engineering, one of the reasons he left South Africa where he was born and raised, was because of the mandatory military service which meant oppressing South Africans during Pieter Botha’s apartheid regime. That sort of civil disobedience or moral abscondment speaks volume about one’s moral compass. Guess what, it flows into the polices of how he runs his companies. We all know when someone is wrong, Musk will say so to their face or via Twitter. Even to the most powerful person in the world. That’s just how Tony Stark rolls.

Blood flows to certain organs of our bodies as a result of visual stimuli which the brain interprets as a request, and subsequently pumps blood to that region. If the preceding sentence is not clear enough, ask a teenage boy to explain. As it happens in biology, it holds true in corporations. Almost everything starts from the head, aka the CEO. This is highly visible especially when the company still has 100-350 employees or less. Now that Microsoft has Satya Nadela as its head, a CEO with inordinate amount of soul. It makes the behemoth appear as if it were cuddly. Does that mean everything is zen, and they’re singing kumbaya in the boardroom? I doubt that. Does it mean, they’ve stopped thinking of dominating and crushing it, which they are known for? I doubt that too. A bottom-up-approach and strategic planning with partners, instead of corporate machinations seem to be the order of the day. From the onset, Satya Nadella has always been a humble guy. Case in point, during the interview process, the board asked Satya; do you want to be the CEO? He responded, only if you want me to be CEO. That sort of response could be perceived as (he’s not ready) or (not assertive enough). However, as of October 2017, the first three and a half years after taking the helm, the stock price rose by 120 percent. It would behoove us not to confuse humility with docility. Individuals with seemingly zen disposition are those whom we should fear the most, because their actions are the loudest. If only you could be invited into the thoughts in their heads; I assure you, the actual loud mouth individuals will seem meek in comparison. Competition is much tougher for Microsoft, because competitors are equally as powerful and are thinking of grabbing more market share globally. However, because the global consumption pie is larger, and Microsoft’s products and offerings are better than they’ve ever been; I would go as far as saying Microsoft has never had it this good. Is it possible to run successful corporations with the sort of empathy and humility which Satya possesses? Yes it is, but for how long will it last? Should all corporations have CEOs with similar attitudes to Satya’s? Obviously that’s impossible, because leaders are real people with different temperaments. Nonetheless, a soulful ingredient in the CEO’s hardware; aka brain or temperament, makes a huge difference to employees, consumers and the inclusiveness of products.

Why does Microsoft have a soul?

Bloomberg Businessweek once referred to him as the Chief Empathy Officer. Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. Satya’s background and other factors both innate and compelled, make him the leader he is. The ability to connect with people and really understand why certain policies have to be instituted for equity and fairness is a rarity when assessing CEOs at his level. Does that mean Satya is perfect? As we’re all aware, no human is perfect. Claiming perfection will only result to stunting one’s own growth. The stats below are listed to dispel the myth that leading with empathy, compassion or being attuned are not good for business.

 

 

Microsoft is stronger than ever

> Market-cap: $1.21 trillion

> Cash on hand: $136.6 billion

> 1 billion users of windows

> In 2016: 300 million PCs were sold

> Oct 2019: awarded Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract

> Brand advertising is now absolutely phenomenal. One of the best in the world

> Spent $26 Billion to buy LinkedIn

> 64 million XBOX live subscribers

> A portfolio of cash-cow products

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Companies with the most cash on hand

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Microsoft’s cash on hand for the quarter ending September 30, 2019 was $136.636B, which is an increase of 0.56% year-over-year. If cash is king, then Microsoft is seating handsomely with the crown atop its head, as the king of the world.

 

 

Employee Validation

Disclosure, I’m not a Microsoft employee and I’ve never worked for them. Instead of writing from what I’ve heard or read, it is better to hear from the horse’s mouth. Former and current employees please feel free to comment below…

 

 

Empathy

knowing more about him, as well as his son’s life; whom he has referenced and spoken about publicly on more than one occasion, gives a better insight as to why Satya comes across the way he does. If you want to know more, watch Satya’s interview with David Rubenstein.

 

Humanity first

Microsoft ends sexual harassment & gender bias arbitration. In 2015, three employees complained and filed gender discrimination lawsuit seeking class action status. Microsoft endorsed a partisan senate bill to prevent employees from settling the cases behind close doors. By so doing, the action exposed Microsoft’s corporate underwear. Most big companies of its caliber wouldn’t have gone that route. Their main objective would have been; let’s lessen the collateral damage by settling in house. After all, no one likes to air their dirty laundry.

 

Microsoft is cool again or not (you be the judge)

In 2018, CNET interviewed Satya, the interview was titled “Microsoft isn’t cool and CEO Satya Nadella is OK with that.” Given Microsoft new business solutions and products, I beg to differ. Again, as mentioned above, Microsoft has never been more attractive. Some of its new products are borderline just too sexy to be used daily e.g., Surface Studio. I haven’t looked into it yet, but something drastic must have happened e.g., a change of creative Ad agency. This Surface Studio Ad is nothing short of spectacular, it may sound hyperbolic but I think it should win an #Oscar if there’s an advertising category. Watching it contemporaneously puts me in a state of awe, and makes me want to do Steve Ballmer dance.

 

Microsoft’s Fire Products

Watch Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer’s presentation, two words; flawless and sublime. Hi Panos Panay, there are product people out there who love your Surface DuoSurface Studio etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Why does Microsoft now have a soul?

Before answering the question, is the article implying both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were devoid of, or had less soul? Of course not, all you have to do is watch this video. It’s the definition of unfettered jubilation. That sort of excitement requires soul to perform. I have never seen a CEO exhibiting that much enthusiasm.

Conclusion

Albeit, Mr. Nadella has being with Microsoft for over 2 decades, at 52, he’s still relatively young. Barring an implosion, a mutiny, personal issues, corporate failure or government sabotage, nothing should stop him from another 10-15 years. As long as the corporation keeps running with the fluidity of a Swiss watch, innovating and generating revenues the size of some country’s GDP, its safe to surmise Microsoft’s legacy could extend beyond a 100 years. Just in case you were wondering, on the first sentence of the third paragraph; why did I write macro-soul instead of just soul. (1) Since we’re talking about a corporation, it’s easier to visualize a macro soul being embedded into devices. (2) It’s not an altruistic corporation, they have to make money. Too much soul implies giveaways. (3) Finally, they’re still liable to shareholders and have competitors to worry about.

P.S. On the third paragraph, the explanation of how a micro or macro-soul can be introduced into a machine is as follows. It’s simply the humanization of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), robotics or interactive devices such as; Cortana, Alexa and Siri to make humans feel comfortable, so much so that the conversation feels natural, as if it were with another human. In Japan, they take it to the next level by making you feel teary-eyed and hugging robots, because the interaction is deceptively emotional. Check this out to corroborate the claim.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/rosalindadams/aibo-robot-dogs-japan

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