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Leadership lessons from Bill Gates on his 61st birthday

Sanjana Ray
28th Oct 2016
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I think we’ve all cited Bill Gates’ example to our exasperated parents at some point during heated debates regarding the importance of a college degree resumes. “If Bill Gates can drop out of Harvard and create a multibillion dollar company, I don’t need to attend this class” was a norm in most college circles. But what most probably realised at some point is that Gates actually chose the harder way out. That’s why everyone remembers his story. It speaks of a tenacious man who did everything society told him he couldn’t and managed to create a legacy that is a part of each of our households, even today.

Image credits: huffingtonpost.in

Image : huffingtonpost.in

A visionary, philanthropist, innovator and, above all, a great leader, Bill Gates is still regarded as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the business market. He started Microsoft at a time when innovation had taken a backseat and turned it into the largest PC software company. Associated greatly with the ‘personal computer revolution’, Gates went from occupying the hot-seat of Chairman, to CEO and then Chief Software Architect.

He has always been a pioneer of innovation and constant change of technology in lieu of the changing markets, as can be seen in his continued efforts to keep Microsoft up to date in a vastly competitive market. His unique, single-minded approach to success led him to occupy the position of the ‘richest man in the world’ with a net-worth of $81.6 billion, as of 2016, according to Forbes.

Although enough has been spoken about Bill Gates’ roller-coaster of a journey with Microsoft, today, on his 61st birthday, we’d like to speak about his inimitable characteristic traits that make him one of the greatest leaders of the business world today.

Live by your own merit and value-system

“In ninth grade, I came up with a new form of rebellion. I hadn't been getting good grades, but I decided to get all A's without taking a book home. I didn't go to math class, because I knew enough and had read ahead, and I placed within the top 10 people in the nation on an aptitude exam.”

Many people attribute a whole lot of good luck and fluke to Bill Gates’ story post dropping out of Harvard because society accrues that it is mandatory to attain a good degree. However, what they choose to be oblivious to is that Bill Gates spent a good number of years working from his garage, developing coding and programming, spending nocturnal hours trying to come up with a solution that would be within global reach. In the face of a society that told him that leaving Harvard would get him nowhere in life, he fuelled his passion for developing a new kind of software. This eventually marked a new era in the history of computerization and turned into the multi-billion dollar company status it enjoys today.

Make mistakes and learn from them

“It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Looking at Microsoft’s dominating presence in the market, one wonders how it managed to outlive the many skittering competitors that arose in the periphery through the years. This only happened because Microsoft has always emphasised learning from mistakes. Gates had to contend with anti-trust litigation claiming that Microsoft was a monopoly that led to a 21-year long battle in the court system, with the case finally coming to a close recently. Similarly, a lot of Microsoft’s products have been a bone of contention for its many users, and some editions fared extremely poorly in the highly competitive market. But Gates has always been adamant about learning from his mistakes and, sure enough, managed to come up with a billion-dollar idea to resolve it each time.

Always be receptive to feedback

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Like any great entrepreneur, Gates understood early on that customer feedback is the most important form of legitimisation when it comes to functioning in a competitive service industry. To this end, he has personally taken a keen interest in major customer feedback through the many years. He has followed the reception of new Microsoft products and services in the market, and has incorporated feedback in the next products. To him, that is how one stays at the top of their game – to know how to survive in face of a constantly evolving market.

A pioneer of innovation

“Our modern lifestyle is not a political creation. Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish. But then we started inventing--electricity, steam engines, microprocessors, understanding genetics and medicine and things like that. Yes, stability and education are important--I'm not taking anything away from that--but innovation is the real driver of progress.”

Gates has always been insistent on innovation and re-inventing his brand because that’s how it is made admissible to the customers making up the market-strength. In a rapidly progressive tech-market, you need to cater to the changing behaviour and customs of the people and create products and services catering to these developments, which will meet their demand and consequently increase sales.

Give back to the world

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started by Bill and his wife in 2000 is now the world’s largest private charitable foundation which aims to save lives in the developing world through efforts to eliminate polio, attack malaria and expand childhood vaccinations. In America, it aims to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. Gates and his wife has invested a fortune in running this organization and hope to reach out to more countries in the coming years and really help make a difference.

Bill Gates is man of fewer words, greater dreams and a plan to change the world for the better. Happy birthday, sir!

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