How to Transform into an Admired Leader?


It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is a danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

—Nelson Mandela

Do you consider yourself to be an admired leader? Of course, you do because you are highly competent.

When your enterprise faces an issue, you take the initiative to propose a solution.

When your colleagues approach you with a problem, you offer very effective solutions.

You are task-driven and do not brook any nonsense or incompetence from your colleagues.

If you spot any professional weaknesses among your colleagues, you do not hesitate to correct them, then and there.

But despite your high level of competence, perhaps your colleagues are not willing to be led by you? They do not wish to affiliate or engage with you, and worse, they resent


Legions of professionals face this very problem.

This sounds too simple. Is there any success story to lend credence to this recommendation?

Microsoft was led by Bill Gates, and later by Steve Ballmer. Both were high on competence but had well-earned reputations for being hard taskmasters who expressed their displeasure in public. It was not uncommon for people to be rebuked by Bill Gates during a meeting: ‘That’s the dumbest idea I have heard.’ Take Steve Ballmer now, who was described by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, in his 2011 book, Idea Man, ‘I thought, this guy looks like an operative for the NKVD (the secret police of the U.S.S.R.). He had piercing blue eyes and a genuine toughness.’

During Steve Ballmer’s stewardship, Microsoft’s stock moved more sideways and companies such as Apple, Alphabet, and others were effortlessly overtaking it.

In 2014, Satya Nadella took over the mantle of leadership from Ballmer. He was an unlikely choice to lead an iconic American company. Born and schooled in Hyderabad, he earned a degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology, India. He paid heed to the clarion call of the 1980s—’Go west, young man’—he traveled to the US and got an MS degree in computer science. In 1992, he joined Microsoft and made a career in the company.

Electrical engineering

During his tenure, he must have won Bill Gates’s deep admiration. Upon Nadella’s elevation, Gates said in a prepared statement, ‘Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, a business vision and the ability to bring people together.

Nadella brings people together by being an empathetic communicator. He forms emotional connections with people by appearing This was evident in the mail he sent to employees upon taking charge:

I am 46. I’ve been married for 22 years and we have 3 kids. And like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experiences. Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity, and hunger for knowledge, all define me.

No wonder Nadella finds a place in the ‘admired’ quadrant!

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