In the modern business environment, the qualities of the organisational leader heavily determine the business success of that organisation. In this study, the leadership qualities of Bill Gates as the CEO of Microsoft will be analysed in context of Lewin’s model. Belbin’s model and Tuckman’s model of leadership and team development. Finally, his change management and decision-making skills will also be evaluated.
The leadership style of Bill Gates is arguably transformational and democratic, as he has always valued the opinions and creativity of the employees working in Microsoft (BBC, 2020). According toBoje and Smith (2010), Bill Gates has been the CEO of Microsoft from 1975 to 2008, and led it to become one of the technology giants in the modern business industry. His main area of supervision was product design, and he has displayed exemplary democratic leadership here, which allowed all the design engineers to contribute innovative ideas to enhance their products and services. Shah and Mulla (2013) argued that according to Bill Gates, the most crucial aspect of a leader is to be able to empower their subordinate employees to deliver their best performance, which highlights his transformational leadership.
Figure 1: Bill Gates
(Source: Coudriet, 2019)
The theory of leadership developed by Kurt Lewin is basically a model that highlights 3 major types of leadership in the business environment, which are related to the autocratic leadership, democratic leadership and delegative leadership. Popli and Rizvi (2016) argued that an organisational leader usually adopts one of the three different leadership styles, which helps that leader to form a defined relationship with the subordinate employees.
Figure 2: Lewin's leadership styles
(Source: Popli and Rizvi, 2016)
As per the leadership and team development theory of Meredith Belbin, it can be argued that there is a total of 9 different roles that a team member can play within a team. Depending on the role that suits a particular team member the most, his or her position as a leader or a team member is decided.
Figure 3: Belbin team roles
(Source: Meredith Belbin, 2011)
These 9 different roles can also be categorised into three broad groups, which are:
In the case of Bill Gates, Meredith Belbin (2011) argued that he fitted perfectly in the positions of shaper, resource investigator and coordinator. While it is true that he possessed specialised knowledge in computer science and information technology, his role as a leader was to maintain a highly motivated workforce that had excellent coordination among each other. In fact, it was also seen that it was due to the excellent resource finding capability of Bill Gates that Microsoft managed to create ground-breaking operating systems such as Windows.
The team development process explained by Tuckman can be considered to be one of the most popular and valid models of team formation, and according to this model, the entire process of team development is comprised of four different stages that appears in a sequential order while a team is being formed and operating within a business organisation. Furthermore, Tuckman (2013) argued that this model also dictates the role of the team leader at each stage of the team formations and operations.
Figure 4: Tuckman's team development model
(Source: Tuckman, 2013)
These stages are:
It can be argued that among the three theories discussed above, Lewin’s theory of leadership styles is the most appropriate theory to explain the leadership style of Bill Gates. The leadership style of Bill Gates is mainly a blend between the democratic style and the delegative style. The reason behind this is that it has been seen in the career of Bill Gates that he has never dictated a business decision without consulting with other managers about its possible positive and negative impacts. Furthermore, Ingerson and Bruce (2013) argued that the overall business operations of Microsoft are centred on developing software, and Bill Gates often asked for the opinions from the employees and managers regarding the possible innovative designs of their new software. This kind of participative leadership is one of the reasons that Bill Gates managed to maintain such a high quality of innovation in every new release of Windows OS.
Jin and Yeo (2011) argued that the delegative aspect of the leadership of Bill Gates is also evident, as he allowed many of the employees working in Microsoft to maintain their own ideas as part of their activities. He even allowed the employees to take decisions about the project operations, especially the research and development department employees. This created a high level of innovation in Microsoft, bolstering the efficiency of Bill Gates’s delegative style of leadership.
Due to Bill Gates having a high level of participative and delegative leadership qualities, he adopted a transformational approach for change management in Microsoft. In fact, he implemented the change management model of Kurt Lewin, which involved three distinct steps, which are unfreezing, changing and refreezing.
Figure 5: Lewin's change management model
(Source: Burnes and Bargal, 2017)
Bill Gates applied the stage of unfreezing through seminars and group talks, where he personally emphasised the importance of the change. Visser and Courtice (2011) argued that the actual change process was also carried out through collaboration between employees and managers, and Bill Gates always asked for their opinions while implementing the change step by step. Finally, the refreezing was carried out by integrating the changed values into the vision of Microsoft, which inspired the employees and managers.
Team motivation skill of Bill Gates is arguably one of the best in the entire history of the business industry. During the decades of 1990’s and 2000’s, Microsoft was given a belittling nickname ‘Mickey-Soft’ by its competitors Apple and IBM, referring to the smallness of Mickey Mouse(Dixon, Horton and Weir, 2011). However, Bill Gates managed to keep a high employee motivation during that period, and gradually led Microsoft to the position of world’s best professional operating system supplier. Bill Gates motivated the employees by encouraging them to think innovatively, and increasing their commitment and loyalty to the organisation. This created highly motivated and dedicated research and development teams in Microsoft, resulting in excellent organisational growth (Forbes, 2020).
The decision-making capabilities of Bill Gates was also excellent, as he has taken several decisions that contributed to the growth of Microsoft. It is to be noted that despite having a participative leadership style, Bill Gates took several high-level product design decisions by himself, even going against the opinions of the majority of employees in Microsoft. According toGreen and McCann (2011), most of such decisions have proven to be quite successful and beneficial and long-term, such as giving major focus on the operating system development, which led to the development of Windows OS. Furthermore, Bill Gates has always been highly accepting towards innovative ideas, and many of his decisions are innovative in context of the contemporary market trends.
The leadership style of Bill Gates is found to be mainly democratic and transformational, which focuses more on the employee expertise development rather than organisational profit. This leadership style has allowed Bill Gates to capitalise on the innovative capabilities of employees in Microsoft. This has allowed Microsoft to gain several ground-breaking innovations in product designs, and experience unprecedented success in Bill Gates’s era.
According to Dressler et al. (2018), Gibbs reflective cycle is basically a process involving six different stages, which helps a person to improve his or her capabilities. Potter (2015) argued that the purpose of Gibbs reflective cycle is to develop the skills through reflecting on experiences. The reason I chose Gibbs reflective cycle to develop my leadership skills is that it enhances my observations and analytic skills as well, which further contributes to my leadership skill development.
My previous leadership style was mainly related to the coaching and democratic leadership style. In fact, I have always managed to maintain a high level of importance to the team members, which helped me to maintain a cordial relationship with them. Furthermore, I always guided the team members who lacked knowledge regarding the team job operations, and I also tried to solve all conflicts that arose among the members of my team. I usually took decisions after consulting with them about those decisions. However, I always finalised the decisions, and I also made changes in those decisions that I felt are necessary to ensure the success of the team.
In the present time, my leadership style has remained mostly the same, although some changes have been experienced by me. In fact, I believe that my decision-making process has experienced certain changes. For instance, I now put more emphasis on making the decisions by myself rather than consulting with the team members. Even now, I take the feedback of the team members, but now I only utilise those feedback to gain a good understanding about the various aspects of the decisions, so that I can make my decisions better. Apart from this, I have also reduced the amount of time that I spend while coaching the new employees. Now, I prefer them to learn while working with the experienced members in the team.
While leading teams in the past, I felt that I enjoyed teaching others. In fact, I always enjoyed communicating with my team members while teaching them about the team operations, strategies and technical aspects whenever possible. Furthermore, I also felt that team coordination is extremely important to ensure the success of the team operations, and thus I always tried to resolve the conflicts arising among the team members, and enhanced the team coordination. Furthermore, I also felt that while considering the opinions of the team members for the decision-making purpose, I managed to show the team members that they are important for the team, which increased their dedication and loyalty to the team.
My results in test 1 indicates that I have a well-developed democratic leadership style, while my transformational leadership style and coaching leadership style are also present, although not quite highly. Furthermore, the result of test 2 for me is 69, which indicates that I already have a moderate level of capability to communicate the team goals and vision. This is an extremely important skill for a leader, as without a clear understanding of the team goals, a team can never perform efficiently. The result of the test 3 shows that I scored above 59 in all aspects of team leadership, except directions. Thus, my directional capabilities need some improvement, which involve inspiring the team members to move forward towards the direction I am taking them. Furthermore, my test result 4 is 56, which indicates that I actually am highly motivated to lead an organisation, and my test result 5 also indicates that I have an excellent growth mindset. Thus, it can be argued that I am a motivated transformational democratic leader who has a drive for growth.
As Bill Gates himself is a democratic leader with unique tendencies that can be termed as characteristics of a delegative leader, I can relate myself with his leadership style. This is because I myself am a transformational leader who believes that team member interactions and feedback are extremely important, which helps me to enhance the quality of the decisions, and establish the loyalty and commitment of the team members at the same time. Furthermore, I have also realised that delegating certain team operations to expert employees speed up the entire team activity and enhance the overall team efficiency.
My scores in test 6 indicate that I have maintained a high level of social awareness. However, my relationship management is not very good, which has created the issue of low capability to maintain relationships. Furthermore, my Belbin test result indicates that I am mainly a team worker who prefers coordinating with the teammates. My Rosenberg test score is 19, and my Hanson test result is 217, which indicates that it is much more efficient for me to adopt a transformational leadership style, and for that I will need to improve my relationship management skills.
Reflecting on my leadership style, I have realised that rather than deciding to focus more on the transformational democratic approach, I could also adopt the authoritative approach that is the opposite approach of Bill Gates. In fact, it has been seen that in certain circumstances, Bill Gates have indeed taken firm decisions while motivating and inspiring the employees in Microsoft to follow those decisions. However, in future, I wish to enhance my existing transformational and democratic leadership style, as I believe that it will allow for better employee management.
· Highly interactive towards the team members
· Excellent communication skills
· Excellent training and development skills
· Low authoritative capability
· Lack of team directive skills
· Great opportunity to manage virtual teams due to excellent communication skills
· Low authoritative skills can be threat in managing teams under strict rules and regulations
In future, my target is to enhance my transformational leadership- skills even further by developing my persuasion skills, and work delegation and distribution skills. I believe that achieving this target will enhance my attractiveness as a leader among the employers.
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Appendix 1: Test Result 1
Appendix 2: Test Result 2
Appendix 3: Test Result 3
Appendix 4: Test Result 4
Appendix 5: Test Result 5
Appendix 6: Test Result 6
Appendix 7: Belbin Test Result
Appendix 8: Dr. Hanson Test Result
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