Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Microsoft's mission is not to be cool, but to make others cool
  • Microsoft is considered cool by many

Childhood in India (00:00:34)

  • Satya Nadella's father was a Marxist economist and civil servant, focused on the struggle in life
  • Nadella's mother value happiness and asked him if he was happy
  • Growing up in Hyderabad in the late 70s and early 80s shaped his ability to think, pursue passions, and have confidence and humility

Lessons from cricket (00:02:56)

  • Nadella played cricket and believes team sports teach leadership skills
  • Learned a leadership lesson when his school captain gave him the ball back after a poor performance, showing the importance of not breaking confidence and making hard calls

Being a parent (00:05:20)

  • Became a parent in his late 20s, facing complications and his son being diagnosed with cerebral palsy
  • Initially struggled with the change in plans for his life, but realized that something had happened to his son and he needed to step up as a father
  • Being a parent shaped Nadella's empathy and worldview, teaching him to see the world through his son's eyes and emphasizing the importance of empathy in business

Empathy (00:09:49)

  • Empathy is important but hard to develop
  • Respect is a necessary condition for developing empathy
  • Empathy is the source of success in any innovative agenda


  • Before becoming CEO, Nadella led Microsoft's first real Cloud business, facing pressure to succeed from Steve Ballmer
  • This opportunity was influential and helped Nadella grow and eventually lead the company

Becoming CEO (00:13:02)

  • Did not anticipate becoming CEO of Microsoft
  • Advises not to wait for the next job to do your best work

Cultural shift (00:18:48)

  • Instilling a growth mindset requires personal change
  • Long-term change requires confronting fixed mindsets
  • Imperfection and celebrating imperfection is important
  • Leadership at the top is vital for implementing change at scale

Lead by example (00:20:36)

  • Leading by example is necessary for creating a culture of growth mindset
  • Example of leading by example is promoting diversity and inclusion within the senior leadership team

Diversity Inclusion (00:22:50)

  • Emphasizing diversity and inclusion is a cultural priority
  • Compensation changes were made to support diversity and inclusion efforts
  • Inclusiveness is the real currency of a culture
  • First-level managers have significant influence on creating an inclusive environment
  • Supporting managers at all levels in fostering inclusiveness is a priority

The Cloud (00:25:18)

  • The cloud was a risky bet when Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft.
  • Transitioning from the client server era to the cloud was challenging.
  • Steve Ballmer, the previous CEO, gave Nadella permission to pursue the cloud strategy.
  • Leaders must remove constraints and take on risks in order to make successful transitions.

Culture and Strategy (00:28:04)

  • Purpose and culture are important pillars for success.
  • Strategy and innovation are also crucial, but purpose and culture give the best probability of catching the wave of innovation.

Impact at Scale (00:29:21)

  • Large organizations like Microsoft have the opportunity to create impact at scale.
  • Collaboration and working with others is key to making a difference.
  • Recognize the complexity of organizations and bring multiple constituents together to achieve scale.

AI and Humanity (00:31:48)

  • AI can have positive impacts, such as improving accessibility for those who need help.
  • Ethical considerations and the state of AI software engineering are important.
  • Humans have the power to shape AI and its consequences.
  • Skill people for the jobs of the future and consider new types of skills valued in an AI-driven world.

Who to partner with (00:35:33)

  • Establish core principles and guidelines for AI use.
  • Facial recognition is an example where regulation and guidelines should be in place.
  • Collaboration and partnerships should align with these principles and guidelines.

Regulation (00:36:52)

  • Scrutiny of large organizations is necessary and should be welcomed.
  • The technology industry needs to mature quickly and consider the unintended consequences of digital technology.
  • Companies need to recognize the opportunities of technology while also taking responsibility for security, privacy, and ethics.
  • Positive change is happening, but self-reflection and change are necessary.

Leadership style and values

  • Understanding oneself is a lifelong journey
  • Understanding others is also important
  • Being true to oneself and finding satisfaction in empathizing with others
  • Work should have deeper meaning than just being transactional
  • Building relationships and mentoring others brings long-term satisfaction


  • Belief in staying humble even during times of celebration
  • Grounding oneself and teams amidst success
  • Invoking a sense of purpose every day to stay grounded

Decision framework

  • Belief in democratic institutions and the democratic process
  • Ability to vote and bring about change when needed
  • Withholding technology from elected institutions is not helpful
  • Ethical principles and reinforcing institutions' history of ethical principles are important

Would you come to the US

  • Great opportunities in India, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world
  • Digital technology as a democratizing force
  • Learning in the US and returning home is an opportunity, but not the only way to have an impact
  • Challenges and opportunities with globalization

Biggest adjustment to your leadership style

  • Understanding the unique contributions one can make as a leader
  • Recognizing the multi-constituent nature of the CEO role
  • Balancing the needs and considerations of customers, partners, employees, investors, and governments

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