India had celebrated when Satya Nadella was announced the CEO of Microsoft in 2014, and the country still feels proud about it.

In his debut book Hit Refresh, Satya Nadella talks about his life in India, love for kids and cricket, how he became more interested in computers than cricket, and his thoughts on innovating with some of the most advanced technologies in the digital era.

Figure 1 Image featured on 1st page of Hit Refresh

“In this age of continuous updates and always-on technologies, hitting refresh may sound quaint, but still when it’s done right, when people and cultures re-create and refresh, a renaissance can be the result.”When we ‘hit refresh’ in a web browser, it updates the page, keeping some things and replacing others. The same way, the leaders, organizations, corporates, and societies need to hit refresh in order to make a sustained impact over a period of time.

His book reveals that he is passionate about leadership and transformation the most. When he became CEO of Microsoft, the first thing he mailed to the employees was, “Our industry does not respect tradition- it only respects innovation.”

TRANSFORMATION

Hit Refresh is about the transformations that Satya Nadella observed throughout his journey. He started as a privileged kid of an IAS officer, who played cricket and loved coding, but failed an IIT entrance test like thousands of Indian students every year. He had learned from cricket that turnarounds can be dramatic. Cricket is a game of uncertainties, and so is life.

Nadella believes in doing ‘your thing’, at your pace, and pace comes when you do your thing. Do it mindfully and well with an honest purpose behind it. Life won’t fail you.

He has observed the transformation at Microsoft, from an era of desktop to the aim for cloud, and the computing technology that can overcome the limits of Physics and Chemistry based on transistor computing. The earlier supercomputers had 13,000 transistors, and Microsoft X Box One has five million of them.

“Despite all this rapid change in the computing industry, we are still at the beginning of the digital revolution.”

LEADERSHIP

Satya Nadella thinks that leadership is an art, not a science. The ‘C’ in the CEO stands for culture, and culture building is the core of his leadership style.

“I knew that to lead effectively I needed to get some things square in my own mind—and, ultimately, in the minds of everyone who works at Microsoft. Why does Microsoft exist? And why do I exist in this new role? These are questions everyone in every organization should ask themselves. I worried that failing to ask these questions, and truly answer them, risked perpetuating earlier mistakes and, worse, not being honest.”

Satya Nadella observed that innovation in organizations was being replaced by bureaucracy, and teamwork by internal politics. When he took over Microsoft, he decided to remove the barriers to innovation, and bring together everyone and get back to what they all joined the company to do- to make a difference to the world. The initiatives taken up by Microsoft for digital transformation set the roadmap for the world to embrace the digital age seamlessly.

“Once you become a vice-president, a partner in this endeavor, the whining is over. You can’t say the coffee around here is bad, or here aren’t enough good people, or I didn’t get the bonus. To be a leader in this company, your job is to find the rose petals in a field of shit.

In a chapter, Nadella has written about ‘Friends or frenemies’. He uses a cellphone of Apple despite being the CEO of Microsoft. He says that the ability to collaborate and compete with leading companies is similar to walking the tightrope. He has partnered with Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, with a belief that cooperation and competition can coexist.

“Sometimes that means working with old rivals and sometimes it means forging surprising new partnerships.”

Here are some more things that Nadella wrote about leadership and team work-

  • A leader must see the external opportunities and the internal capability and culture—and all of the connections among them—and respond to them before they become obvious parts of the conventional wisdom.
  • My approach is to lead with a sense of purpose and pride in what we do, not envy or combativeness.
  • For anything great to happen – great software, innovative hardware, or even a sustainable institution – there needs to be one great mind or a set of agreeing minds.
  • Success can cause people to unlearn the habits that made them successful in the first place.
  • Bring clarity to those you work with. Simplify things.
  • Always have respect for your competitor, but don’t be in awe.
  • Find a way to deliver success. Balance short term and long term. Innovate. Be global minded.
  • When I learn about a shortcoming, it is a thrilling moment.

EMPATHY

While empathy may sound a little irrelevant thing to discuss among organizational topics, Nadella has explained how it matters a lot in the business than the people think.

“Ideas excite me. Empathy grounds and centers me.”

Nadella’s son was born with severe disabilities 21 years ago, and that was the time when his wife Anupama helped him learn empathy. Nadella thinks that empathy is a quality that help him understand people’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It brings a desire in him to discover what is at the core.

Empathy is a quality that shapes the mission of empowerment at Microsoft and improves the teamwork. It opens the mind so that the organizations can think more about customers’ perspectives, and fulfil their unspoken needs.

In a conversation with former Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble, Satya Nadella related the leadership skills to cricket. He said that, in the end, one brilliant knock or three cleverly bowled balls can change the game. Like cricket, in business, sometimes the captain/leader needs to put his team ahead of his personal statistics and recognition. Leadership is about bringing the best in everyone.

With ‘Hit Refresh, The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and imagine a Better Future for Everyone’, Nadella hopes that it will start important conversations and spark innovative ideas. Every person, organization, and even society reaches a point at which they owe it to themselves to hit refresh—to reenergize, renew, reframe, and rethink their purpose.

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