As part of Leadership Development efforts at Microsoft, I get an opportunity to chat with people about my leadership philosophy.  Here are a couple of nuggets of information that I wanted to share broadly with you all.


Sometimes we use the word leadership and management interchangeably, but in my mind there can be a huge difference between the two.  If I have to sum up the differences in one sentence, here is how I think about it – Managers define the best way to scale a wall, while Leaders define which wall to scale in the first place.  In my ideal world, I want to see a leader having great management skills and a manager possessing strong leadership skills.  If not, I encourage people to think about what their strengths are and how they can surround themselves with people that complement them.


There are a lot of different leadership attributes that I can talk about.  If I have to prioritize the attributes, here are the top five that come to my mind as key ingredients for a successful leader.

1.  Dream big

2.  Integrity

3.  Communication

4.  Share credit and take the blame

5.  Set the right expectations


Why Dream big? I believe that if you aspire for the stars, you may reach the tree top; on the other hand if you aspire for the tree top, you may fall flat on the ground.  Integrity is all about doing what you say.  In other words, if you say something I want to know that you are going to do your very best to make that happen and if you can’t you will come back to me and talk about that in a very timely manner.  As far as communication is concerned, Leadership and Communication are two sides of the same coin.  While communicating, successful leaders pay attention to simplicity, maturity and frequency.  Simplicity is about resonance with the listener’s thoughts while maturity is a good balance between the leader’s conviction for her own thoughts with consideration for the listener’s opinions.  Be it JFK’s “putting a man in the moon” or Bill Gates’ “a computer for every desk”, or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…”, these are examples of leaders communicating their vision in a way that is simple and yet resonates super well with the world.  Successful leaders share credit & take the blame. As Lao Tzu said -- “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him....But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, "We did it ourselves”.  Finally, good leaders set the right expectations. In Max DePree’s words -- “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”


The ultimate test of leadership is if you can have people follow you on the journey.  I remember reading this quote somewhere and unfortunately don't remember who said it, but it resonated with me quite well and here it goes - "A leader without followers is a person out for a walk alone".