Gates’ leadership style and management practice are legendary. He is known for detail which is quite logical for a computer programmer and astute businessman. Control is basic to Gates’ nature. This is apparent in his management practice. He is obsessed with detail and follow-through. As a CEO, he believed that his managers must be evaluated in terms of their personal influence. So, each manager was expected to act like his own little CEO in his own little right. Gates cannot be blamed for this attitude. He has been an entrepreneur for the most part of his life.
He knows that, as a manager of business, a person has to be accountable for his own influence on the stream of things and the tides of change. Gates deals with his subordinates in the only way he knew how to deal with business management and leadership. This is how he likewise deals with himself. Quite logically, he projected himself into each and every manager of his company. As he would reward himself for being a good influence on his entrepreneurial endeavors, Gates firmly believed in financial incentives.
Just as he made himself rich, so did he make his managers rich. Extremely rich. According to some reports, about a third of company employees were thought to be millionaires. The cream of the crop could have been worth $100 million. Microsoft employees say that they find it comfortable being with the company, adding that no matter how huge Microsoft is, there is still a “small company feel, with open communications between management and the employees” (Vault Employer Profile: Microsoft, 2003).
To sum up Bill Gates’ leadership style, he gives it in snippets and sound bytes himself in his 1999 book entitled Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy. Here, Gates gives four of his favorite leadership tips (Gates, 1999). This is proof that he walked the walk and talked the talk. The first tip is about taking two ‘retreats’ every year to recharge one’s own batteries, and to refresh the focus and perspective of things.
The second tip encourages people to read books on various other topics to broaden the mind, such as materials that are not necessarily about the profession that one is in. This means that a leader has to study other industries apart from the one he belongs in, so as to glean the impact these have on his industry as there is a certain interconnection in the entire value chain. The third leadership tip is about identifying problems at the soonest possible time. Beyond that, a leader has to promptly act on solving these problems that have been identified.
This problem tracking should be done with the latest and most scientific metrics that are at the leader’s disposal. The fourth leadership tip that Bill Gates gives is to stop at the end of the day. This is for the purpose of analysis and clearing one’s mind, to see where the chokepoints had been during the day in terms of inefficiency and ineffectiveness over the last 24 hours. It is apparent that Bill Gates is a stickler for results. If he is demanding on his people, that is only because he demands the same from himself.