Satya Nadella at Microsoft: Instilling a Growth Mindset

JWI 510: Leadership in the 21st Century


Various leadership lessons can be driven from the case of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Having a Growth Mindset. The CEO took over a crippled organization but helped the company to wake the giant in its innate self. He encouraged the staff members to have a growth mindset. He helped them to realize that learning is a continuous process that never stops. People learn today for the interest of using knowledge in the future. More so, no one has a monopoly of knowledge (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). Therefore, leaders should embrace the tendency of having a thirst for learning new things each day without getting to the point of satisfaction. This paper is a sequel to Satya Nadella’s case analysis and connects to my leadership journey in my company. In the paper, I will address four major parts, namely Learning from Nadella’s example, Effective Communication, Building a High Performing Culture, and Building a Learning Organization. Each of the listed areas is divided into several subtitles to in breaking down the paper into finer details. The thesis statement for this paper is leaders should build a tendency of continuous learning.

Learning from Nadella’s Example

CEO Nadella is among the most successful leaders across the globe in the contemporary world. He is considered a successful manager because of his evident zeal in reestablishing one of the most famous corporations in the world, Microsoft. Before taking over, Nadella had impressed the world of management by his exemplary leadership in the various roles he had taken on his journey up the ranks at the corporation (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). He possessed the very therapy that Microsoft needed at the time.

Comparing Leadership Styles

My leadership skills, to some extent, go hand in hand with those of CEO Nadella. Firstly, I am always passionate about helping people to realize their potentials by working alongside others and having open discussions. More so, I enjoy learning new things each time in all things I do. Nadella has proven to the world that learning is a way of investing in knowledge for use in the future (Hunt & Fitzgerald, 2018). A good leader should be open-minded and ready to adjust to changes when need be.

Nadella and his Background

Nadella demonstrated his passion for learning at the age of 25 when he worked so hard to attain a master’s degree in Chicago despite having achieved another master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. After joining Microsoft Corporation, Satya Nadella quickly rose through the ranks to become the Chief Executive Officer in 2014. Nadella transformed the corporation with the mission of helping each person and organization in the world to achieve anything it wishes to (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018).

Nadella and Authentic Leadership

Transformational and authentic leaders like Nadella employ a relationship-oriented and behavioral type of leadership approach. To begin with, Nadella presented the characteristics of an authentic leader by being morally grounded, responsible to the needs of the employees, and transparent. More so, Satya Nadella presented a mission of establishing and building a process of change, ensure continuous inspiration to the employees, and guide the program of responding to the needs of the employees (Hunt & Fitzgerald, 2018). The CEO practices both transformational and authentic styles of leadership. His style of leadership has helped him to resurrect Microsoft Corporation in less than five years that he has been in the top office.

Leadership and Taking Risks

After taking over, Nadella encouraged and challenged employees to minimize their fears of losing or failing. He wanted them to work aggressively by trying to do anything that they feel like doing for the benefit of the corporation. He wanted every employee to take risks for the company. For instance, Nadella started the process of building bridges to Silicon Valley, expanded the footprint of the company’s software on Apple and Google devices, and creased on a shift to Web-based programs and business services (Hunt & Fitzgerald, 2018).

Building a High Performing Culture

Every organization has a culture that leads its operations. Organizational culture can lead to either success or failure. Therefore, leaders need to formulate a growing culture that propels the company towards achieving its goals. Satya Nadella built a culture of growth by coming up with a growth mindset for the corporation (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005). He communicated his mission to all employees regularly and encouraged them to work towards achieving the new mission for the corporation.

Comparing Cultures

My company embraces a culture of believing in achieving the best results in all activities that it engages in. However, the company has met failure in most of its goals to the extent of demoralizing the employees. Employees end up blaming each other for the failure hence drawing thicker lines between one employee and the other. Unlike in my business, Nadella’s Microsoft culture is different (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005). He focuses on allowing employees to take as many risks as possible. He encourages them not to count failures and focus on the goal. More so, Nadella discourages any habit of blame games within the corporation.

Changing the Culture: Where to Start?

Organizational culture is like the wind that people can’t see but can feel and see its effects. An enabling culture helps the company to sail forward. Changing the culture of an organization starts with a deep understanding of the company, its performance, goals, employees, and consumers of its products (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005). The next step of allowing culture change is effective communication. Everyone needs to know and understand the reasons for changing the culture of the company. More so, everyone within the organization should be a player in bringing in the anticipated change.

Changing the Culture: Major Challenges

Changing a company’s culture is not a walk in the park. It is a process that is met by various challenges and barriers (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005). The manager or leader initiating the change of the culture should be clever enough to predict the occurrences of the challenges and plot ways to overcome them. Some of the major challenges encountered when changing the culture of an organization include resistance from employees who think that the change is not important, making the culture permanent in the employees’ minds, and working to change from the past to a new mindset.

Building a Learning Culture

The digital transformation in the contemporary world calls for a change of culture in various organizations. Nadella’s learning culture is one of the most effective cultures in the businesses of today. It is challenging for a company to build a learning culture, especially if the employees had got assimilated into the past culture. However, there are various ways I consider best in building a learning culture (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005). Firstly, the leader should begin by educating and communicating to the employees about a learning culture. Then, the employees should be educated about the benefits of having a learning culture for them, the company, and the consumers.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is one of the essential elements in every business setting. I choose this topic as one of the major topic areas because it is such an important sector in my company. Communication can either help in growing or dwarfing a business (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018).

Nadella and Communication Barriers

As a new CEO, Satya Nadella had to fight down various barriers in the corporation to achieve his mission (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). One of the major challenges he faced was communication. He had to write letters and emails to all the staff members to ensure that they get to the same page with each other. One of the barriers was that employees had a culture of not sharing ideas and opinions. Nadella wanted a culture that encourages communication through discussions and sharing.

Communication Barriers at Large and Small Organizations

In most organizations, communication fails to flow effectively from the top to the bottom office. Effective communication enables every employee to be aware of the proceedings of the company in real-time. Large organizations experience more communication barriers than smaller businesses due to the vastness of the setting. For instance, Nadella faced communication barriers since Microsoft is a big organization that has offices and work stations all over the world (Seng, 2015). I believe these barriers are universal but hit big organizations harder than the smaller ones depending on the way each company values communication.

Communication Barriers at Your Organization

My business faces various communication barriers, such as language, cultural diversity, physical separation, and gender differences. At Microsoft, Nadella faced similar communication barriers. He was challenged by the physical separation of the management and the employees of the corporation (Seng, 2015). More so, cultural diversity was a major communication barrier when Nadella took over at Microsoft. In my company, the gender difference is also a major cause of ineffective communication. There are cases of feminism from time to time.

Your Approach to Effective Communication

My leadership lay more focus on communication within and without the company. I have always wanted to have a team of employees who work as a group. Consulting and discussing of ideas are some of the things that I intend to focus on every time I am given a chance to lead (Seng, 2015). I prefer these tools because they help in bringing the focus of the company to the achievement of goals. Having a common objective is essential and paramount for a successful business.

Building a Learning Organization

A learning Organization has more chances of achieving its goals than the one that abandons this culture (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). As a leader, I would want to build a learning organization for my business. I chose this topic area as one of my main areas of discussion because I have a mission of making my company a learning organization soon.

Nadella’s Team and Learning

Nadella started to preach the spirit of shifting from know-it-all to learn-it-all to the employees as soon as he became the CEO of the Corporation. Nadella had learned from the experience he had gained at Microsoft that a growing company must depend on the spirit of learning everything and not assuming to know all things (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). He planted the urge to learn all things to the employees, which turned out to be the driving force of the company.

Learning at Your Organization

My company has a long way to go to get to the brim of knowledge learning. Various challenges continue to cripple my company when it comes to the function of knowledge learning. However, the company has started a program of bringing in the spirit of knowledge learning with Nadella’s case at Microsoft as the main case study (Welch, Welch, Primus, Winkelmann, Grawe & Szymczyk, 2005).

Promoting Learning in Your Team

Nadella succeeded in creating a hungry learning organization when he took over the CEO’s office at Microsoft. Likewise, every leader should promote a learning culture in the organization that he or she leads (Goleman, 2000). I intend to offer one-on-one discussions with my employees to help them realize why they should be bold when asking questions and challenging the ideas of fellow employees.

Your “Learn-It-All” Mindset

Behaving like I don’t know anything but ready to learn everything does not make me a fool. If anything, this spirit helps me to wake up each day feeling hungry to learn more and more things by the end of the day (Ibarra, Rattan & Johnston, 2018). The Learn-It-All mindset rests in the same concepts. As an MBA student, I should not lie to myself that I know a lot of things. Instead, I should always remind myself that I need to learn more and more things, especially that is in line with my career.


In conclusion, the Learn-It-All mindset applies to all sectors and levels of life. Students, managers, CEOs, Employees, Entrepreneurs, and trainers should have the mindset of learning everything. People should never consider themselves experts no matter since every opportunity is a chance for learning. I have gone beyond Nadella’s case by connecting my experience in my company with that of CEO Nadella. In most instances, I fall short compared to the achievements that Nadella has attained at Microsoft.


Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard business review78(2), 4-17.

Hunt, J., & Fitzgerald, M. (2018). Styles of Leadership. Leadership: Regional and Global Perspectives, 62.

Ibarra, H., Rattan, A., & Johnston, A. (2018). Satya Nadella at Microsoft: Instilling a growth mindset. Harvard Business Review case no. LBS128 (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Seng, L. J. (2015). Leadership In A Changing World.

Welch, J., Welch, S., Primus, B., Winkelmann, H., Grawe, S., & Szymczyk, M. (2005). Winning (Vol. 84). New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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