People learn best by emulating the behavior of others around them. Instead of reading about the concepts of leadership, we can look at successful leaders to see how they became that way, and use them as role models for our behavior. And who is a better role-model than the man who changed the way we use information for work and for learning, built the most successful computer company in the world, and, in the process, became the richest man on earth?
Here are some key leadership lessons we can learn from Bill Gates:
1- Seize the Day: Formal Education Is Not the Only Way! Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after realizing that he can make an impact on the world right away by starting a software company to utilize new technologies. He realized that sometimes opportunities come knocking only for a short window of time, and one must seize that opportunity or it will be forever lost.
2- Don’t Be In It For Money: Money is not the real motivator. If Gates was concerned about money, he would have stayed at Harvard, ensuring himself a future with a steady high income. Instead, he pursued his dream of developing software for a new world of information usage that satisfied his passion and stimulated his mind. Gates did not pursue money. Money came to him because he offered the world something of great value.
3- Be Competitive, But Not Vicious: While building Microsoft, Gates was certainly very competitive in his business practices, as he should. But as a leader, he did not use an aggressive, abusive, or nasty style of management. His personal demeanor was low-key, courteous, and civilized. If you worked with, or for, some top American executives you will know that this is not very common. Gates managed to stay a decent human being as he grew to be a formidable business leader. What a rare combination!
4- Greed Is Not Good. Contrary to the famous advice of the film “Wall Street” that Greed Is Good, Gates teaches us, with his behavior, that vision, humanity, and satisfaction are mush better qualities to have. He could have continued to seek more money and power as most American business leaders do. But he did not believe that greed is a virtue. At the zenith of his years and while he is at the top of his game, he announced he will step down in two years and have someone else guide the global company he built. It takes someone with great personal strength and lack of greed to be able to make such a selfless decision.
5- Give As Much As You Take. Gates has wisely discovered that you can have as much, if not more, happiness in giving as you do in taking. He decided to spend the rest of his life giving away his huge wealth to worthwhile causes like fighting AIDS in Africa and helping libraries in the US. Leaders who find ways in which to give of their time, talent, and wealth tend to lead a more balanced and satisfied life than those who focus on just taking and accumulating. When you hear Gates talk these days, you will hear a positive vision for raising the health and education standards of poor people around the world. This contrasts significantly with other rich business leaders who tend to talk mainly about the stocks, their business success, or just themselves.