Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been in the news throughout the past year and 2024 has also started with a bang. That's courtesy of the company's major strides in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), where its big bet on OpenAI, led by Sam Altman, means Microsoft has a virtual head start in the race against Google, Meta Platforms and rival tech titans. Amazon is playing catch up. And the biggest rival among them is Apple, which has yet to start the race. AI is poised to change the world in ways imaginable and yet to be imagined, leadership in this space cementing Nadella's place among the best tech CEOs since Apple founder Steve Jobs.
However, there is more to it. There are two parts to success, Nadella. One is success in terms of products and second is success in terms of creating value for stakeholders. And, Nadella's success spanned two divisions, as he beat Apple and steered Microsoft into the $3 billion market value space. And, at the same time, legacy products like Windows OS are also evolving.
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So, what really makes Nadella such a successful CEO? Here's a list of the many ways former CEO Steve Ballmer invigorated the tech giant after he took over what was considered a sleeping giant when he left.
The biggest bet
Unwilling to cash in on the glory of Microsoft's Windows OS, virtually at the start of his journey in 2014, Nadella quickly steered the lumbering giant to power its Azure cloud computing platform. This immediately opened up a fresh revenue stream as the bet paid off and reduced reliance on the Windows platform. Not only that, but recently, it was a masterstroke for him to get an exciting startup like OpenAI to tie-up with Microsoft and commit to Azure.
A brutal vision
Another big decision made then was Ballmer's abandonment of the company's efforts to crack the smartphone market, which had focused much of Microsoft's energy and money — and it wasn't paying off at all. Ballmer bought the iconic Nokia company for over $7 billion. However, it has recently gone on record that Nadella is now regretting this decision.
Shunning the spotlight
All this was achieved without any hype or big announcements, as he seemed to rally Microsoft employees, explain his gameplan and urge them to work in a more collaborative manner than the previous competitive approach.
Nadella's ability to get things done without getting caught in the media has also brought him fame. The same was evident when he handled the surprise ouster of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI and was able to bring him back without any visible repercussions or bad press. In fact, he emerged as a wise and professional elder who disciplined his younger charges and got them back.
Cooperation over competition
As for his personal approach and relationship with employees, Nadella is respectful to everyone, listens patiently, and then explains to them what the future holds and how Microsoft will go out and conquer it.
Belief in one's own vision
Nadella has shown that if he sets his mind on something, he pursues it with full focus and energy. While Nadella is very collaborative in approach, as is evident when dealing with employees or others like OpenAI, he doesn't hesitate to give free reign to his killer instincts, especially when it comes to takeovers. It recently appeared in Activision's Blizzard Takeover. His testimony confirmed that Microsoft did not face the kind of antitrust scrutiny that many analysts had feared would stop the deal from going through.
Mostly pluses, but a setback
Although success overshadowed his career, there were some setbacks and Russian and Chinese hackers were able to access the supposedly invincible Microsoft Office tools – the emails of the US government and Microsoft officials. As a result, the company has indicated that it is willing to sacrifice safety at the altar of success.
In essence, Nadella is focused on innovation, but above all growth and quick delivery of anything that gets in the way. He's a changemaker and, judging by how comfortable and how he behaves in public, he'll be around for a long time at Microsoft, cementing his claim to top the list of best CEOs with iconic jobs.
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