Microsoft Corp.’s selection of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumnus Satya Nadella as its next chief executive officer is a case of the right man being selected for the right job at just the right time.
At least, that is how one expert on leadership sees it.
“Nadella is a brilliant choice and surely a CEO to watch. He will undoubtedly transform Microsoft’s strategy and culture. Early indicators of his approach signal a welcome departure from (former CEO) Steve Ballmer’s leadership style. Under Ballmer, Microsoft was stifled, relying too much on what they’d done in the past,” said executive coach and author Tasha Eurich, Ph.D. “Nadella, however, has a fresh view of what the company can accomplish. He’s a tenacious and passionate leader who appears to be determined to shift the company’s focus from traditional software to devices and services, a vision put forward by Ballmer that has yet to materialize.”
When leading employees, “Ballmer was notoriously intense and overwhelming, often seen as cheerleading his organization rather than actually leading it. Nadella is a study in contrast – humble, open and employee-first. In a recent employee-wide e-mail, he hailed the value of empowering every individual, passionately,” Eurich said.
According to Eurich, Nadella affirms Microsoft’s role in “improving other people’s lives, and expresses his confidence in the talent, resources and perseverance that exist within the company.”
Eurich, known as “Doctor T” in leadership circles, recently completed her new book, titled “Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom Line Results and the Power to Deliver Both.” In the book, she says many business leaders believe they must decide between being a “cool parent” who is beloved by his or her employees or a “trail of dead bodies” leader who is so results-oriented that he or she is feared by employees.
According to Eurich, Nadella is a CEO who can find the right balance between those extreme leadership styles.
“I believe he’s going to execute on that. It’s so refreshing for Nadella to come in and be the opposite of Ballmer,” Eurich said.
Nadella, a native of Hyderabad, India, graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1990 with a master’s degree in computer science. Nadella received the UWM Chancellor’s Innovator Award in 2013.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and member of the board of directors. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
Nadella, 46, is the third CEO since the Redmond, Wash.-based company was founded in 1975.
“Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company,” Nadella said. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast. But to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.