Ethical Leadership Bill Gates Case

Read the case, “Keeping Up with Bill Gates” (reproduced below from Hughes et al., 2015, pp. 601-602) and answer the end-of-case questions. Your assignment should be submitted as a Word file, and will be assessed using the Paper Rubric.

Keeping Up with Bill Gates

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Bill Gates inherited intelligence, ambition, and a competitive spirit from his father, a successful Seattle attorney. After graduating from a private prep school in Seattle, he enrolled in Harvard but dropped out to pursue his passion—computer programming. Paul Allen, a friend from prep school, presented Gates with the idea of writing a version of the BASIC computer language for the Altair 8800, one of the first personal computers on the market. Driven by his competitive nature, Gates decided he wanted to be the first to develop a language to make the personal computer accessible for the general public. He and Allen established the Microsoft Corporation in 1975. Gates’s passion and skill were programming—he would work night and day to meet the extremely aggressive deadlines he set for himself and his company. Eventually Gates had to bring in other programmers; he focused on recent college graduates. “We decided that we wanted them to come with clear minds, not polluted by some other approach, to learn the way that we liked to develop software, and to put the kind of energy into it that we thought was key.”

In the early days of Microsoft, Gates was in charge of product planning and programming while Allen was in charge of the business side. He motivated his programmers with the claim that whatever deadline was looming, no matter how tight, he could beat it personally if he had to. What eventually developed at Microsoft was a culture in which Gates was king. Everyone working under Gates was made to feel they were lesser programmers who couldn’t compete with his skill or drive, so they competed with each other. They worked long hours and tried their best to mirror Gates— his drive, his ambition, his skill. This internal competition motivated the programmers and made Microsoft one of the most successful companies in the computer industry, and one of the most profitable. The corporation has created a tremendous amount of wealth—many of its employees have become millionaires while working at Microsoft, including, of course, Bill Gates, currently one of the richest men in the world. During the 1990s Bill Gates’s net worth grew at an average rate of $34 million per day; that’s $200 million per week!

Gates needed a castle for his kingdom, so he built a much-talked-about house on Lake Washington. The house lies mainly underground and looks like a set of separate buildings when viewed from above. The house was conceived as a showcase for Microsoft technology—it took $60 million, seven years of planning and construction, and three generations of computer hardware before it was finally finished. A feature of the house that reveals a lot about its owner is the house’s system of electronic badges. These badges let the house computers know where each resident and visitor is in the house. The purpose of the badges is to allow the computer to adjust the climate and music to match the preferences of people in the house as they move from room to room. What happens when more than one person is in a room? The computer defaults to Gates’s personal preferences.

1. Would you classify Bill Gates as a charismatic or transformational leader? Why?

2. Consider the followers and employees of Gates. What are some unique characteristics of Gates’s followers that might identify him as charismatic or transformational?

text: Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., & Curphy, G.J. (2015). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience, 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. ISBN 978-0-07-786240-4
Sources:
http://www.microsoft.com; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/worlds_ most_powerful/3284811.stm; http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/Gates.Mirick.html; http://www .time.com/time/time100/builder/profile/gates3.html; http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/ pulpit20001123.html.

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