“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”-Bill Gates
As the founder and CEO of the software-empire Microsoft, Bill Gates is undoubtedly the most successful Harvard drop-out with a net worth of $132.6 billion. Despite dropping out from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, his technical excellence, passion and focused vision enabled him to permanently change the software industry, bringing “a computer to every desk,” as he boldly envisioned in the early days of Microsoft. Today, he continues to be recognized as a leadership legend for his transformational leadership style and considerable philanthropic efforts.
Bill Gates’ Behavioral Line Chart
So what can we learn from the way Bill Gates operated? What traits characterize his leadership? Let’s take a look at some of his key behavioral traits on the chart below. The red line shows Bill Gates’ behaviors, while the blue line shows an anonymous person’s behaviors for comparison.
Bill Gates’ Key Behavioral Traits
Adjectives: focused, determined, creative, passionate, logical, resilient, critical, objective, audacious, result-oriented, confident, ambitious, organized, perfectionist, detailed, intelligent, innovative, competitive, conscientious, methodical, enterprising, self-motivated
High Proactivity (Pro)
The desire to pursue achievement of excellence in activities acknowledged by others as important for status in a community.
“If all my bridge coach ever told me was that I was ‘satisfactory,’ I would have no hope of ever getting better. How would I know who was the best? How would I know what I was doing differently?“-Bill Gates
Bill Gates is proactive and thrives on setting goals and working hard. At the age of 13, Gates wrote his first software program and in high school he helped form a group of programmers who computerized their school’s payroll system and founded Traf-O-Data, a company that sold traffic-counting systems to local governments. Throughout his career, he has been determined, ambitious, self-motivated, energetic and enterprising, founding the world’s most successful software company and taking a practical approach to setting goals. Instead of dreaming of an unattainable vision, Gates uses a very methodical step-based approach to achieve his goals and is in a constant pursuit of excellence.
High Endurance (End)
The ability to persist with any task through to it’s completion.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.“-Bill Gates
Gates knows that success takes a lot of hard work and he has a dedication to finishing what he starts. Known for his incredible focus and strong sense of duty and obligation, he would work conscientiously to develop coding and programming in order to create a solution that could change the face of technology. He is also able to withstand hardship and adversity, viewing failures as one of the most insightful aspects of business.
High Dominance (Dom)
The desire to take control whenever and wherever possible.
“Leaders need to provide strategy and direction and to give employees tools that enable them to gather information and insight from around the world. Leaders shouldn’t try to make every decision.”-Bill Gates
Although not as intense as Steve Jobs, there’s no doubt that Bill Gates was a natural born leader who liked to be in charge and was competitive in doing so. However, although he is strong, forthright, determined, and able to inﬂuence others, he also was able to more easily delegate jobs to others unlike his competitor and believed in the importance of collaboration.
High Creativity (Cre)
The ability to act and think innovatively.
“[Intelligence is] an elusive concept. There’s a certain sharpness, an ability to absorb new facts. To walk into a situation, have something explained to you and immediately say, “Well, what about this?” To ask an insightful question. To absorb it in real time. A capacity to remember. To relate to domains that may not seem connected at first. A certain creativity that allows people to be effective.”-Bill Gates
There’s no doubt that Bill Gates is an original thinker. He is adventurous, bright and is known for conceptualizing and bringing the PC to fruition. For him, creativity is about flexibility, intuition, and curiosity. In an interview with John Emmerling, Gates encouraged that companies should never stop having ideas, saying “Some companies (do) have a rigid process,” he said. “They say, hey, the ideas are all supposed to come in that last phase and then once we get to this phase you’re not supposed to have any more ideas. That’s pretty ridiculous. What if you have an idea you hadn’t already thought of? A lot of people get their best ideas when you get down the path. So you can’t have this rigid process. You’ve gotta keep things flexible.”
High Criticality (CY)
The desire to be critical of people and things, and to pick them apart in great detail.
“If I think something’s a waste of time or inappropriate I don’t wait to point it out. I say it right away. It’s real time. So you might hear me say ‘That’s the dumbest idea I have ever heard’ many times during a meeting.“-Bill Gates
Bill gates was constantly evaluating ideas and looking for ways to improve his products. He had a meticulous eye for detail, was conscientious and would often poke holes in poorly thought out ideas, products or opinions. He also believed that you should “Embrace bad news to learn where you need the most improvement” and that “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest sources of learning.”
Other notable traits: High Order (Ord), High Autonomy (Aut), High Self-Confidence (S-Cfd), High Military Leadership (ML)
After reading Bill Gates’ key behavioral traits, it’s easy to see why Microsoft has become one of the most successful companies of all time. Gates’ incredible focus and strategic planning, passion and technical dedication set the standard for the personal-computer industry, and his influence and innovation continues to be powerful in the technology world of today.