Successful Leaders Are Those Who Can 'React Appropriately' To Unplanned Events

Bill Gates
Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation

In the tech industry, there are many famous figures that are worth noting. But to change the world, it requires more than just an avid entrepreneur or a talented businessman.

It needs a whole world of dedication and sacrifice. And to properly lead a company through harsh times, a successful leader is needed.

Bill Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft. The software giant has evolved beyond its original intention, which was desktop, to include the web, cloud, AI, mobile and beyond.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft was quick in gaining the computer market, with Gates seeing the needs of an operating system for personal computers.

It was because IBM adopted Microsoft's operating system that transformed Microsoft from a small company, to a leading software company. And with the sales of MS-DOS, Microsoft became a major player in the industry.

Since then, Gates was well on his way towards fulfilling his vision of putting a computer in every home, by making them all run Microsoft's software.

Bill Gates

From that perspective, Bill Gates can be considered a 'successful leader'.

Before leaving Microsoft, the company he co-founded with the late Paul Allen, is already one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

Gates once wrote the book titled "Business @ the Speed of Thought". At that time, he was only 44 years old, and a 'centibillionaire'. He accurately predicted the way the internet would change business in years to come.

In the book, Gates described what he considered successful leaders, by seeing them face bad times.

Gates explained that a company's ability to respond to unplanned events, good or bad, is a strong indicator of competitive advantage.

A CEO of a company, needs to be alert of the market and understand the condition of the industry the company is conducting its business, at all times. CEOs should be able to do something rare, like looking for bad news, and empower people to respond to the situation.

Gates said that successful leaders should be a role model that can safely encourage employees to share bad news as much as good news.

"An essential quality of a good manager is the desire to seek bad news rather than deny it. An effective manager wants to hear about what's going wrong before he or she hears about what's going right. You can't react appropriately to disappointing news if it doesn't reach you soon enough."

"You concentrate on bad news in order to get started on the solution quickly."

Gates offered several tips leaders can follow to go through tough decisions:

  • Take the initiative to create an environment that fosters open discussion.
  • Reward failure and allow experimentation.
  • Embrace bad news to learn where to improve.
  • Communicate bad news quickly.
  • Make informed decisions with reliable data.
  • Free up virtual teams to work on solutions quickly.

Gates' book was written in 1999, way before Facebook, Twitter, Zoom, Slack or any other social media networks.

At the time, the internet was still a luxury, with Yahoo! as one of the pioneers. Texting was just a business tool, and email was basically the way businesses communicate.

But Gates' tips should be considered timeless, especially in times when communication has become key to a business' success.