William Gates III
Management & Leadership
May 22, 1997
Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire, by James Wallace and Jim Erickson chronicles the life of William Gates III through the early 1990’s. Bill Gates is well known as the richest private citizen in the world, because of a little company known as Microsoft. This book explains the events that led to the formation of Microsoft, and chronicles Microsoft’s domination of the computer software industry. While doing so the traits, characteristics, and behaviors that allowed Gates to successfully create his empire are explored.
The first leadership trait that comes to mind when analyzing Bill Gates is vision. He started Microsoft when the personal computer was only a hobbyist’s toy. Microsoft was started because Gates could envision that one day in the future computers would be everywhere. Those computers would need software to make them do something useful. Gates decided that Microsoft would provide that software. Throughout the history of Microsoft there are many examples of Gates using his vision to decide where the computer industry was headed. Microsoft would then steer to that direction. Recent visions that Microsoft has followed are "Information Everywhere" and "Information at Your Fingertips."
Bill Gates also has tremendous self-confidence. This self-confidence stems in part from the tremendous expert knowledge that he has of the computer industry. It also comes from the fact that he is an extremely intelligent person. Gates won many early contracts for Microsoft because of his self-confidence. People saw in him someone who would get the job done. Gates has also had the confidence in his ideas to stand behind them through rough periods for years. Products such as Windows took many years to become popular, but Gates had the confidence in his vision to patiently wait for the market to catch up to him.
Dominance and Assertiveness are two general leadership traits that are closely related in regard to Gates, and that he displays to a very high degree. Gates is well known for his desire to control the software industry and has been very assertive about realizing that goal. There are many anecdotes with Gates proclaiming that Microsoft would drive some other computer company, such as IBM, out of business while slamming his fist into his open palm. And indeed, Microsoft has driven out of business, or acquired, many competitors. This has lead to anti-trust FTC investigations, but no wrongdoing has ever been found.
The trait of Gates that has most affected the corporate culture at Microsoft would have to be his drive. The amount of energy put into achieving some goals is astronomical. In school Gates was well known for working days at a time on a programming project with only very brief pauses for food and naps. That drive was carried over to Microsoft where it is uncommon, and frowned upon, to work a standard working day. There is even one story of a programmer working on the Windows project that brought his sleeping bag to work and didn’t leave for a month. At Microsoft 60-80 hour weeks are the norm, and Gates is usually there even longer, plotting the course for Microsoft.
Gates’ farsightedness is the trait that has kept Microsoft profitable while many other companies in the computer industry have failed. This is closely related to Gates’ vision. He is highly regarded for his accurate predictions of where the industry will head and years to come, and has kept Microsoft on that course.
Bill Gates has been an extremely efficient leader of Microsoft being of his intense personality. No other man has lead a company in the computer industry as well as Gates has. This is why he is rich beyond belief, and Microsoft’s profits continue to grow.
Would I like to work for Bill Gates? The computer junkie side of me would love the opportunity to work for such an industry legend. On the other hand, the more rational side of me would not like to work for him. It would be nearly impossible to work for such a driven individual. Microsoft has lost many managers over the years that could not take the pressure of working with such a man as Bill Gates. It also would be very hard to strive for perfection when working for such a successful person. I think that I would always have in the back of mind that it would never be possible to achieve more than second best.