Life lessons from Bill Gates
Youth must learn how to lead by developing skills that matter. Successful leaders like Bill Gates have rightly set the example as visionaries who worked hard to achieve their vision
Leadership plays an important part in the success of any organisation as it takes on the personality of its leaders. It is the life skill that differentiates a great CEO from a normal CEO. Great CEOs are exemplary visionaries with superlative managerial and leadership skills. One such great leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist of contemporary times is Bill Gates.
Learning experiences from great leaders is an important input for the youth of today to learn how to lead by developing qualities that matter.
Being listed as the richest person on this planet for 12 consecutive years is by no means a small accomplishment. It shows how Bill Gates, through his intelligence has been masterfully guiding the world into the era of networked personal computers. This has made him one of the best-known entrepreneurs in computer and technology industry.
In 1975, he co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen that went on to become one of the biggest software companies in the world and made Bill Gates the youngest billionaire at the age of 31. After leading the company for 25 years, Bill Gates retired from his role as Microsoft’s CEO in 2000 and instead devotes himself full-time to philanthropy through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Although Gates was more of an autocratic leader, who was known to be harsh in his style, he was extremely achievement-oriented and motivated his employees to surpass their past performance. Knowing the stature of his great business leader, his whole life would be a great lesson for one and all.
Microsoft was not created in one day. It was years of hard work and determination of Bill Gates. Fuelled by his passion, he spent years working from his garage, developing codes and programmes and learning how to create a solution with global reach. Even after Microsoft began gaining success, Gates worked for days and nights on understanding the target audience and developing the products that would speak to their business, education and consumer needs.
He is of the opinion that change is constant and that changing trends should be pre-empted. According to him, the products should constantly evolve and the company should be the one to bring in new products and make its older products obsolete, instead of its competitors or other market forces. Gates knew that to maintain its leadership position, Microsoft had to continually reinvent itself, moving from just software packages for office to a web browser and new enterprise solutions. He led the pursuit to diversify the Microsoft product line and ingrained that need in the organisation’s culture. As a person, Bill Gates was fiercely competitive, with a drive to get best possible results and win. He always set his personal goals higher and had the will and determination to reach them.
From creating Microsoft in 1975 until 2006, Gates had the primary responsibility for the company’s product strategy. His competitiveness broadened the company’s range of products and wherever Microsoft achieved a dominant position, he vigorously defended it. Focus was one of the important qualities of Bill Gates. Although he dropped out of the Harvard University, he did not digress and co-founded Microsoft the following year in 1975. He was a total disciplinarian, focusing on one task at a time. It was difficult to distract him.
For over 30 years, Bill Gates has demonstrated the importance of clarity of thought and execution unlike many of his contemporaries. It was this quality that made him a success. He was a man of big vision. He envisioned every person on this planet to have a computer and every computer, a programme, designed by Microsoft. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to achieve his vision.
In this process, he has been instrumental in the IT revolution that the world has witnessed. Gates believes that one should never stop learning and feedback is an important aspect of improvement. According to him, success should not make anyone complacent and the most important lessons are learnt from failures and not from successes.
According to Gates, to become successful, it is important to take risks. At the same time, to ensure the success of the business, one has to strategise and plan well. Bill Gates did not complete his college and dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. This was the biggest risk he had taken but it paid off well as he was determined and competent. Nothing comes easy and that includes being successful.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft on a shaky foundation but through patience and hard work, they were able to surpass the struggles they encountered. The first venture of his entrepreneurial life, an early version of big data, Traf-O-Data, which aimed to process and analyse the data from traffic tapes, failed miserably.
Although it was a complete disaster, the failure did not hold Gates back from exploring new opportunities and a few years later, he created his first Microsoft product and forged a new path to success. This goes to show that there are no shortcuts to success and it takes time to build an empire and a lifetime of sacrifice to keep the consistency going.
It would be hard to talk about the life of Bill Gates and not discuss philanthropy and humanitarianism. Heeding his mother’s advice before she passed away due to breast cancer, Gates has always taken a selfless approach to his leadership, spending considerable money and time in philanthropic efforts to give to others.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars to causes all over the world, making significant differences in the lives of children and adults. This level of giving back illustrates Gates’ character and focus on social responsibility as a global corporate citizen and shows that his pursuit of solutions and making life better went beyond just making a profit. Instead, it was about driving significant change in the world that would make a difference for those who need it the most.
Early in his life, Bill Gates inherited ambition, intelligence and competitive spirit that had helped him to rise to the top. Under his leadership, Microsoft revolutionised IT industry and became one of the most important trendsetters in the modern world.
The world has appreciated Bill Gates as an entrepreneur, a successful business leader and an outstanding philanthropist.
His great contribution to society has been through the IT revolution, however, his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts are even greater and have benefitted innumerable children around the world.
He is a great leader in a true sense. As it is noted by Gates himself, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, Amity University)
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