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Bill Gates’ obstinacy built Microsoft

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in Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

Today, many people see Bill Gates as a globetrotting humanitarian. But in the 1980s, he was a headstrong entrepreneur.

In Microsoft’s early years, Paul Allen (the company’s co-founder) often joined Gates to visit key customers. On one of their trips to San Francisco, they met with different clients and then planned to rendezvous at the airport to catch their flight home.

Allen arrived at the gate on time, but Gates was running late and didn’t show up for the final boarding call. Allen waited for Gates, figuring they’d get the next flight.

As the jet pulled away from the gate, Allen spotted Gates sprinting toward him. Unwilling to wait for the next flight, Gates ran straight past Allen and bolted onto the jetway.

At the end of the jetway, Gates started fiddling with the control panel. The computer whiz figured out how to move the jetway toward the plane, which was inching away, so that he could somehow get the pilots to stop and let him board.

Standing nearby, Allen was convinced they’d be arrested. He yelled to Gates, “Don’t do that!”

An airline agent hurried down the jetway. But instead of calling for security guards, the agent said, “Sir, hold on. We’ll get the plane to come back.” And it did.

Gates was equally stubborn with his colleagues, especially Steve Ballmer. They fought frequently over business decisions. Allen observed many of these squabbles, likening them to “face-offs between bull elephants.”

— Adapted from Idea Man, Paul Allen, Portfolio/Penguin.

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