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Ballmer: tactician to visionary

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Back when Bill Gates headed Microsoft, he served as the master strategist while Steve Ballmer worked as the tactical field marshal.

Now Ballmer’s in charge. So far, here are his demonstrated capabilities as a leader:
  • Optimist. When asked about his biggest worry, Ballmer finds the question puzzling, but he does admit to mistakes in not backing innovation. Now he’s more comfortable with placing big bets. He likes Colin Powell’s quote: “Persistent optimism is a force multiplier.”

  • Evangelist. When students of leadership think of Ballmer, they think of a marketing maniac. He’s a supercharged wild man of a speaker who can whip a sales staff into a frenzy. He has strained his vocal cords during sales meetings, and even hurt himself gesturing wildly. “I have four words for you,” he shouts. “I love this company.”

  • People person. Although he’s an admitted math geek who’s extremely analytical (he keeps his calendar on an Excel spreadsheet), he devotes about a third of that calendar to customers. “His north star is very tuned to the last customer or industry partner he talked to,” says a company executive.

  • Visionary. The wonk-turned-salesman wants to push Microsoft outside its comfort zone and widen its vision. “Focus is an essential thing, but you sort of want to focus short term and be expansive long term,” he says. “You’ve got to have big eyes.” Yes, and we’ll see.
—Adapted from “Preaching From the Ballmer Pulpit,” Steve Lohr, The New York Times.

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