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Several years ago, I researched the roles/responsibilities of a CEO and compared them to a couple of job descriptions for Product Management (director and/or VP level). It was an interesting exercise that confirmed some things in my mind about the context of a product manager as leader.

As such, I love coming across conversations like this one from Quora/Brad Silverberg about Microsoft’s leaders over the years, including Bill Gates, Steve Balmer, and Satya Nadella.

What I love about this conversation is it shows the humanity of the leaders. It highlights some of the risks they took in their roles … some of which yielded success, but just as importantly it shows some of their failures (we shouldn’t fear failure as leaders).

Dig into the conversation yourself, but here are a few of my favorite snip-its highlighting several of the roles/responsibilities I explored:

  • Bill Gates –  He had the vision to understand the power of software and how to build a large, successful business around software, something that had not been done before.  He established a mission for the company that was breathtakingly broad and ambitious at the time. He is ambitious and competitive, both externally and setting up internal competition.  He aggressively recruited very smart people, gave them lots of responsibility, and held them to high standards.  His insights and ability to create high performance organization is one of his best decisions.
  • Steve Balmer – Steve is a charismatic leader, full of infectious passion and energy.   He lived and breathed Microsoft.  He knows how to get people pumped up.  And he is incredibly smart.  Bill smart … he understands product and technology too.  He would grill me and there wasn’t anything I could get by the guy … Steve understood product and positioning and customer needs, and held me to the highest standards.
  • Satya Nadella – He is leading the company to recognize and accept the world as it, versus the one Microsoft wished it were; embrace it, and listen and respond to what customers want; stake out new leadership positions. In Satya’s view, Microsoft is the productivity company – producing solutions that make you as an individual and your company more productive.  That’s a very different mission than Microsoft as the Windows company. It’s mobile and cloud first world now, as Satya says.

 

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