Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella the most successful tech CEO after Apple's Steve Jobs?
CEO Satya Nadella has made Microsoft the most valuable company in the world. Is that enough to put him in the list of top tech CEOs of all time and that too alongside Apple co-founder Steve Jobs?
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been in the news virtually throughout the whole of the last year and 2024 has started with a bang too. This is courtesy of the major strides the company has taken in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) where its big bet on Sam Altman-led OpenAI has meant that Microsoft is virtually leading the race against rival tech titans with Google, Meta Platforms, and Amazon playing catch up. And the biggest rival of them all, Apple, is yet to start the race. With AI set to transform the world in every way imaginable and some ways that are still to be thought-up, the leadership in this space would itself have ensured Nadella's place at the top of the best tech CEOs ever list after Apple founder Steve Jobs.
However, there is more to it. Success, in Nadella's case has two parts. One is success in terms of products and the second is success in terms of creating value for shareholders. And, as he has led Microsoft into the $3 million market value space, beating Apple itself, Nadella's triumph spans both segments. And, at the same time, the legacy products like Windows OS, are flourishing too.
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So, what really makes Nadella such a successful CEO? Here we list the many ways he has invigorated this tech biggie after taking it over when it was considered a slumbering giant when former CEO Steve Ballmer exited.
Unwilling to simply bask in the glory of Microsoft Windows OS, virtually at the start of his journey in 2014, Nadella quickly pivoted the lumbering giant to power up its Azure cloud computing platform. It instantly opened up a fresh revenue stream as the bet paid off and the dependency on the Windows platform lessened. Not just that, more recently, it was a masterstroke when he got an exciting startup like OpenAI to tie-up with Microsoft and commit to Azure.
Another big decision that was made then was to abandon the company's attempts to crack the smartphone market on which Ballmer had focussed a lot of Microsoft's energy and money - something that was not paying off at all. Ballmer had even bought the iconic Nokia company for over $7 billion. However, Nadella has gone on record recently, saying that it is a decision that he now regrets.
Shunning the spotlight
All of this was achieved without any hype or big announcements, he simply seemed to rally the Microsoft employees, explained his gameplan and asked them to work in a more collaborative manner rather than the competitive approach of earlier.
Nadella's ability to get things done without making a spectacle of it all in the media, has earned him kudos too. The same was clearly visible when he handled the surprising sacking of Sam Altman as CEO of OpenAI and managed to bring him back without any visible consequences or bad press. In fact, he emerged as the wise and professional elder who disciplined his young charges and set them back on course.
Collaboration over competition
As far as his personal approach and relationship with employees is concerned, Nadella is respectful toward everyone, listens to then patiently and then explains to them what he thinks the future holds and how Microsoft should go out and conquer it.
Belief in own vision
Nadella has shown that if he fixates on something, he will pursue it with full focus and energy. Even though Nadella may be quite collaborative in approach, as is clear in dealings with employees or others like OpenAI, he has not hesitated to give his killer instincts free reign, especially when it comes to takeovers. This was most recently seen in the takeover of Activision Blizzard. His testimony ensured that Microsoft did not draw the kind of antitrust scrutiny that most analysts had feared would stop the deal from happening.
Mostly pluses, but one setback
While success has been his shadow throughout his career, there were certain setbacks and none was more glaring than when Russian and Chinese hackers were able to penetrate the supposedly impregnable, Microsoft Office tools - emails of US government and Microsoft officials were accessed. In effect, it indicated that the company was willing to sacrifice security at the altar of success.
In essence, Nadella is focused on innovation, but most of all on growth and anything that comes in the way is quickly dispensed with. He is a changemaker and, as things stand and looking at how comfortable he feels and acts in public, he will continue at Microsoft for a long time, bolstering his case for being on top of the best-ever CEOs list alongside the iconic Jobs.
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