Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Leadership Series: Collaborate and Trust In Yourself

November 13, 2012

On my very first day at Microsoft, they brought the new MBAs together for working session to figure out where to place us in the organization. One of our facilitators was Jeff Raikes, then one of the top executives at Microsoft (and now the CEO of our foundation). As soon as Jeff started talking, a brand new colleague of mine picked a fight with him about something inconsequential. 

It was weird. If yelling at your boss’s boss’s boss before you knew how to find the bathroom was the way to fit in, I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

Eventually, I became friends with the instigator, who it turns out was a very nice, somewhat gentle guy. I asked him why he had been so combative in that situation, and he admitted to me that his advisors in business school told him he needed to be more assertive, and he was trying assertiveness on for size.

Most of my colleagues seemed to be doing a version of the same thing, and I wasn’t very happy with the amount of antagonism in the culture. I considered leaving. But before I took that step, I decided to try my own more collaborative leadership style on for size, even if it didn’t jibe with what most of my peers were doing. 

Then everything changed. I was happier, and I built a very effective team based on a set of values that felt authentic to me.

That was an important lesson about leadership, about the importance of trusting myself.

This week on Impatient Optimists, we’ve invited two inspiring guest bloggers, Brene Brown and Sheryl Sandberg, to contribute some of thoughts thoughts about leadership. I admire Brene and Sheryl very much, and what I find so interesting is how the themes they emphasize converge in certain ways with my own and diverge significantly in others. Both are extremely influential in our public conversation these days—both Brene's and Sheryl's TED talks below are among the most viewed to date. 

I find that hearing what others have to say about leadership helps me get even clearer about my own views, and it’s obvious that many of you feel the same way. That’s why we’ll continue to invite prominent and thoughtful leaders to share their big ideas on Impatient Optimists.

I look forward to sharing and learning from you along the way. 

 
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