I am currently reading “Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone” by Satya Nadella, the current and only the third CEO of Microsoft. It is not the type of book I would pick up whilst browsing in the bookstore. I am not a techie, and have a passing, but not deep interest in Microsoft. I know technology is important, and there are fascinating and radical changes happening and looming, but it’s just not high on my already too long list of books to read. I do read articles on technology, but not books. However, I recently saw an interview with Nadella in which he stated:

“The CEO is the curator of the organization’s culture.”

And I knew I had to read this book. In my experience leading organisations, and helping my clients improve their leadership, the culture is determined, shaped by and reflects the leader. Show me the culture and I will show you the CEO. And when a CEO decides that the culture must change, he or she MUST be the one to lead that change. So, no surprise then that Nadella shares his reflections on leadership, and how he learned to be a great leader. He writes about his early life in India, and how this shaped the man, and the leader he is today. No surprise that coming from India, he is an avid cricket fan! He shares 3 leadership lessons from cricket, learned many years ago when he was in school, that now stand him in good stead as the CEO of one of the largest and most influential companies in the world.

Satya Nadella’s 3 leadership lessons from cricket:

  1. Compete vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty and intimidation
  2. Put your team first – one brilliant character who does not put team first can destroy the entire team
  3. Bolster the confidence of the people you are leading. Leadership is about bringing out the best in everyone

“That’s it Marguerite? That’s what you are raving about?” you might ask, because they seem so obvious – who has not read these in some leadership guru’s book or a development program? Yet, as obvious as they seem, for some reason, they have been fundamental to how Nadella leads, and to his undoubted success. Why? He starts Chapter Two “Learning to Lead” with “I am obsessed with cricket.” And it is this obsession, this passion for the game that has caused him to reflect on and discern deeply meaningful lessons for his leadership. These lessons stick because of his love of cricket. If cricket is not your passion, what is? In my case, it is yoga. I draw so many lessons from my experience on the mat. But that’s me. You are you. The important thing here is to identify your own passion, and then reflect on your own lessons. A few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Throughout my life, what sport, hobby, activity have I been passionate about and committed to?
  2. Why has this been so important to me?
  3. How has it shaped me thus far?
  4. What lessons about leadership can I discern from it?
  5. What are some key insights about myself and how I lead?
  6. What are some key insights about the type of leader I would like to become?

I invite you to reflect on your own obsession, because once you identify the lessons and insights from it, it becomes meaningful to YOU, and therefore to who you are as a leader and how you lead. Neither I nor Satya Nadella have the answers for you. Use your own experiences as your teacher in your chapter of “Learning to Lead.”


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