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Want To Be A Great Leader? Follow Satya Nadella’s 3 Rules For Extraordinary Success

The best leaders know that they must start the new game before the old game has finished.

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BY Terence Mauri - 01 Dec 2017

Want To Be A Great Leader? Follow Satya Nadella's 3 Rules For Extraordinary Success

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is one of the most transformative leaders on the planet. He understands that success doesn't happen overnight. Rather, you must think long-term, plant seeds for the future and start reinventing today while building tomorrow. This means rethinking everything in your business from culture and operations to strategy and talent.

Here are Nadella's three winning rules for great leadership.

1. Think Day 1.

The 2000s were Microsoft's lost decade where it seemed to lose touch with its customers and fall into an existential crisis. Waves of new innovations from Google and the App Store to iPhone and tablets flattened the growth curve of its once legendary PC software business. In 2014, Nadella became Microsoft's new CEO and declared that the new game was to be a Day 1 company. A Day 1 Company makes the decision that every day will be a new day where experimenting, inventing and innovating is the norm.

For Nadella this means asking three powerful questions.

1. How successful are we at creating new products, services or business models?

2. How effective are we at adapting to new changes or disruptions?

3. Does our culture reward risk and failure?

2. Lead with culture.

How are decisions made and what kind of culture do you aspire to have? A winning culture means moving from a 'know it all' mindset to a 'learn it all' one. One of Nadella's first bold moves was to change the mission from the archaic-sounding "a computer on every desk in every home" to the much more customer-focused aim of "empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more." Teams are encouraged to focus on passion related projects and think of Microsoft not as a 42-year-old company but as a challenger organization with Day 1 in its DNA. This counter-intuitive idea is that the use of defensive language can result in outdated mental models that stop you from reinventing today at speed and scale. Nadella knows that now more than ever, you must think and act like 10,000-person startup because fast eats slow.

3. Act quickly, think slowly.

Nadella is a long-term thinker who embraces new trends and weak signals early to stay ahead of the curve. He values high-speed decision-making where 80% confidence is enough to act. In a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) he understands that waiting for 100% certainty before making a decision is simply too slow. Microsoft's stellar results in 2017 show the power of acting quickly and thinking slowly. Cloud Services, for example, already accounts for 32% of total revenue, with usage doubling in the past year.

Final word.

In an era of relentless change, you survive and thrive on your ability to change before a crisis forces you to. Use the principles of Think Day 1, Lead With Culture and Act Quickly but Think Slowly to achieve 10X results in your business.