No one will forget Steve Ballmer’s tenure at Microsoft. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s exuberant former CEO, is applying his energies to the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team he acquired for a record $2 billion in 2014. Most of his wealth remains tied to his stake in the software company. “I’d like to own Microsoft shares until I either give something to charity or I die,” Ballmer told FORBES in 2014.

In late 2015, Ballmer purchased a 4% stake in social media firm Twitter, the stock steadily fell in value during the first half of 2016. A Detroit native, Ballmer dropped out of Stanford’s MBA program in 1980 to join Gates, his former Harvard classmate, in 1980 as employee number 30 at Microsoft. Ballmer served as Microsoft CEO from 2000 to 2014.


Here are 8 Success lessons from Steve Ballmer – “Microsoft Billionaire” for entrepreneurs,

1. Never compare himself to others

Satya Nadella, the current CEO of Microsoft once asked Ballmer, “How do I compare to the people who had my role before me?” And Steve said: “Who cares? The context is so different. The only thing that matters to me is what you do with the cards you’ve been dealt now. … The lesson was that you have to stay grounded, and to be brutally honest with yourself on where you stand.”

2. Numbers matter

Ballmer was exceptionally good at math–in a page of thousands of numbers used for a business unit’s sales forecasts, he could quickly spot the one that was wrong.

In a world increasingly run by analytics, this will become an asset far greater than it was while he ran Microsoft. Numbers forces you to look at the measurable facts, to ask for solid information and to constantly challenge what’s important.

3. Select people for loyalty, not competence

This is one mistake Ballmer made. You should value those who can demonstrate loyalty and team-playing over those who are more competent but possess massive egos and don’t play well with others. The silos that crippled the company and created many of Microsoft’s biggest mistakes stemmed from the inability of really bright people to work with their peers.

You can blame some of this on forced ranking, which pits employees against each other, but a lot of it happened because being smart seemed to trump playing well with others. The end result: A lot of smart backstabbers.

4. Be brief

Many people say in two pages what should be said in one sentence. Ballmer isn’t one of them; he says in three words what others can’t. This precision allowed him to personally touch more people.

When running a large organization or talking to media, rambling at best wastes time and at worst loses the point, causes the listener to daydream and may result in saying something you didn’t intend to say. Ballmer always exemplified of brevity. This worked very well for him.

5. Validate your information

Ballmer’s focus on numbers actually worked against him at times. That’s because he often received corrupted numbers designed to drive a particular decision or simply give Ballmer the answer he wanted. The old term “garbage in, garbage out” applies here; too much of what Ballmer was fed was inaccurate, which led to a series of disastrous decisions.

6. Don’t isolate yourself

Before becoming CEO, Ballmer talked to people both inside and outside Microsoft to gain perspective. After becoming, CEO he allowed himself to be isolated by those who apparently wanted to better control the outcome of his engagements.

There are always those who want to either protect or control people in power by limiting their access. If that’s allowed to happen, bad things go unnoticed for too long. At best, the executive is ineffective; at worst, he or she fails and takes the company down, too.

7. Don’t run your predecessor’s shop

Ballmer figured this out in the end, albeit too late. Up until the final Microsoft reorganization, he basically ran Bill Gates’ company but lacked Gates’ unique skill set. On the other hand, Jobs transformed Apple into something he could run.

You have two choices as a new executive: Change your skills to match the organization’s needs or change the organization to match yours. Ballmer isn’t a software expert and it’s actually pretty amazing that he did as well as he did, given that he ran a company designed around a software expert. Ballmer could never match Gates, but he eventually made changes to Microsoft that better reflected his unique strengths.

8. Develop a point of view

“Sometimes it will be your point of view that creates opportunity, and some time you will pick up an opportunity and it will give you a chance to build a point of view,” Ballmer said.

For lightning to strike, opportunity is rarely enough. Instead, a genuine breakthrough requires a distinctive perspective that can shape a generic opportunity into something extraordinary.

About Author

Biplab Ghosh

Biplab lives his life around technology and is particularly keen to explore the intersection of technology and human behaviour. Always looking for new ideas, and ways that can make things simpler. He is a geek with the flair for travel and has great passion for music and theatres.

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