Bill Gates is a successful leader that has changed the world. What makes a leader? Hunter says that a leader must ask, “are people better off when you leave or when you arrive?” (p.49). Bill Gates will leave the world better than he found it. He created Microsoft and built it into the business giant that it is today. Bill stepped down from his highly profitable business to focus on his foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates holds all the markers of a great leader. “Leadership is influencing people to commit to the mission.” (Hunter, 2011, p.46). Bill is influential, and has influenced the computer business along with many other leaders that use him as the standard.
Born William Henry Gates III, on October 15, 1955 in Seattle Washington. His father William Henry Gates Sr. was a lawyer, and his mother Mary Maxwell Gates served on the board of directors for First Interstate Banc systems, and the United Way. Competition was prominent in the Gates household and this shaped Bill’s determination. Bill showed evidence of being advanced at an early age. Bill attended a preparatory school and at age 13, created a software program that allowed a user to play tic-tac-toe against the computer. At one point, Bill Gates and Paul Allen were banned from using the computers because they were caught using the bugs to get extra computer time without being caught. Bill and Paul were eventually allowed back on the computers when they agreed to debug the software. In 1975, Bill Gates read an article about a new computer the Altair 8800, he contacted the manufacturer and told them that he was working on an interpreter for the computer.
He and Paul Allen built an interpreter in a few weeks and then Paul Allen was hired by MITS company. Bill decided to drop out of Harvard and work at MITS with Paul Allen. They got an office and made a new company called, Micro-soft. This name was because they worked with microcomputers and developed software to run on them. Bill and Paul made their company separate from MITS in 1976 and moved to Washington in 1979. In the first five years of the company, Bill reviewed every piece of code and had to approve it before it could be shipped. IBM commissioned Microsoft to build them an operating system, Bill agreed for $50000, but he would not sign over the rights to the program. He knew it would be needed for other computers with similar systems. Bill knew what he had before anyone else did. By the time Gates was 23, he was the CEO of a $2.5 million-dollar computer business. This cemented Bill Gates reputation as a successful businessman. However, it was not his success that makes Gates a great leader. It is his character.
Influence is an essential marker of a leader. “Leadership is synonymous with influence.” (Hunter, 2011, p.46). Bill Gates had influence as the head of Microsoft and as the founder of his foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates were the founders of a giving pledge, the pledge has been signed by some of the world’s richest people to give the majority of their fortune to charitable organizations. Bill’s leadership transcends his role. Servant leadership is being a servant first, serving others inspires leadership. He continues to influence others even when he is not in a positional leadership role. A lasting impact and influence comes from personal leadership. (Ayers, 2011). Bill Gates has influenced the computer industry, the gaming industry, future business leaders, and some of the most powerful people in the world look to him for guidance. Bill has said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those that empower others.” This reminded me of a passage from A Work of the Heart, “People will support leaders who help them discover who they were created to be and then empower them to employ their talents, energies, and passions. “(McNeal, 2011, p.83). Hunter says that influence must be earned by the leader. (2004, p.73). Bill Gates earned influence through his work ethic and dedication to the company. He was willing to do the work and serve alongside his employees. This helped to develop his influence and authority of leadership.
Bill Gates is a visionary, he saw a need, and he filled it. Bill Gates wanted to be the best, he had a vision of changing the world and building future leaders through his company. He saw the need for faster programing software, and he created a company to fill that need. Bill’s work ethic and dedication to the company influenced the employees and motivated them to work just as hard. Bill’s business decisions were for the future needs of consumers and was always ahead of the curve. Bill realized that Apple had a larger appeal with its mouse interface rather than the text and keyboard system that Microsoft was using. He launches an ad campaign promising a new mouse-driven operating system called “windows.” He didn’t have one in development, but he was able to convince consumers to wait and by his new product rather than the expensive Apple Mac that was already selling. This could be seen as a devious move on his part but it was a risk that paid off tremendously.
God shaped Bill’s heart and prepared him for leadership. “God uses culture to shape hearts.” (McNeal, 2011). Bill was said to have been mature at an early age and drew up contracts that he made his siblings sign to keep their promises. (Macgregor, 2018). Bill’s father had a strong influence on his son’s life. Bill Sr. believed in empathy, equality, and he loved technology. His father’s, character shaped Bill’s heart. Bill was also heavily influenced by his mother’s ambition and competitiveness. He absorbed much of her instincts and powers. (Macgregor, 2018). God influenced Bill’s heart through his culture and then he later brought Melinda Gates into his life. Melinda provided a balance for the qualities that Bill needed to lead. (Macgregor, 2018).
God shapes a leader through the call. (McNeal, 2004, p. 95). Bill built his success under the idea that his products were the best, that he would help people around the world, and use his platform for the betterment of society. “For Bill Gates, anything that gets in the way of his accomplishing the tasks at hand becomes virtually invisible.” (Macgregor, 2018). Bill dropped out of Harvard to focus on his passion. He took a courageous step to leave a safer and more stable choice in order to focus full time on his start up business. “God has not committed himself to finance our dreams. We must adjust our lives to what he wants-not seek to have him adjust to what we want.” (Ayers, p.36.). It would be a difficult decision to leave college but Bill felt the call, so he answered it. He did not do it in pursuit of fame or fortune, but as a way to follow his dream or the call that he was destined to fulfill. “A leader with a clear sense of a call represents a formable force.” (McNeal, 2004, p.95). Bill used that focus to build Microsoft, which is credited as one of the largest, and most influential computer technology companies in the world.
Bill is dedicating his life to serving a greater good. Hunter explains, “Leadership requires selflessness.” (Hunter, 2001, p.99). Anyone can serve. In the end we must choose between being self-serving leaders or a serving leader. (Hunter, 2001). Bill Gates chose to be a servant leader. In 1993, while traveling in Africa, Bill and Melinda Gates were struck by the poverty that they saw. This influenced Bill and Melinda and is what ultimately motivated them to start their foundation. The mission statement of their foundation is, “Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation works to help all people lead healthy lives. In developing countries it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them a chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.” (gatesfoundation.org). Bill’s father shared this same dedication to service. “To me, global poverty is a humanitarian issue. People are dying, and we can save them-and that ought to be enough.”-William Henry Gates Sr. (Macgregor, 2018). “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.” (ESV). Bill and Melinda Gates have given over $24 billion to the foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a major contributor to global health; its influence is profound. (McCoy). The foundation works in more than 130 countries.
A servant leader wants to learn as much as possible, Bill Gates always wants to learn more and improve himself and the world. Bill reads a book for an hour a day, and finishes around 50 books a year. Which reminded me of a verse in the bible, “For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare.” (Prov. 8:11, ESV).
Servant leadership is about teaching. In order to be a successful leader, you must also be a successful teacher. Hunter explains that character is habit, and character is essential to leadership. (Hunter, 2004). He allowed his employees to make mistakes, and then he would guide them to a solution. Bill Gates allowed his employees to pitch ideas and be creative. The dynamic at Microsoft was one of coaching and teaching as to prepare the next leaders of the company. Bill takes that one step further with his foundation contributing directly into the education system.
Bill built a strong community around him. God shapes leaders through their family. This is especially true for Bill Gates. (Ayers,). Bill’s wife Melinda is more social and outspoken and she has helped Bill with those areas. He has said that this made him a better leader and a better person. Bill’s community includes his close friend, Warren Buffet. Warren has donated an average of 2 billion a year to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. He has also signed the pledge to give away 99% of his wealth during his lifetime and donate it to the foundation. The foundation focuses on vaccines, education, minority scholarships, and global health. It has had enormous success especially in Africa and the AIDS epidemic.
Before the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Bill established the William H. Gates foundation, the Gates library foundation. In 2001, he consolidated those foundations into the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Bill Gates has always been a philanthropist. Gates once said, “I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity” (Bloomberg Businessweek).
I believe that, leadership is an opportunity to bear the image of God in relationship to one another. It is inextricably tied to godliness. (Ayers,2015). Character development is an important aspect of leadership.