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May 06, 2007

Should billg Stop Bullying?

In a comment on my post on Bill Gates’ management style, reader Kempton asked:

“..do you think has billg got mellow out a little as he aged, got a great wife and partner, and also kid(s)? He still seem quite geeky but I sure hope with age, he got mellow out a little.

“Do you got to see billg after your time at MSFT? Does he remember people who worked for him before?...”

I did see billg several times when I was running AT&T WorldNet and afterwards when I left AT&T to found ITXC.  He was interested in both businesses, congratulated me on WorldNet’s success, and was gracious enough to volunteer that I had been right about some of the Internet issues which he and I had disagreed on and had partially led to my leaving Microsoft following the battle of Shumway Mansion.

Don’t know directly whether he’s gotten more mellow.  Not sure at all that I hope he has.  The philanthropic work that he and Melinda are doing is incredibly important and incredibly hard.  They are among very few individuals with the resources to make substantive change in some of the world’s most hopeless places; and they’re dedicated to doing just that.

Sympathy and good intentions and even scads of money are not enough.  An incredible tough-mindedness is needed to assure that aid isn’t just stolen or diverted to feel-good projects which make no long term difference.  Those who think corruption needs to get its due need all the bullying billg can bring to bear to be forced out of the way not to mention those who aren’t willing to radically upset the stsus quo.  His aid projects need even tougher review than his product development projects.  I hope that he’s still “hard core” about the things he cares about and as effective at bringing his attention to bear.

Mary and I have seen signs of other NGOs – particularly those who get money from ex-Microsofties – taking a cue from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and demanding better accountability than they would have before.  This alone is an accomplishment.

Is bullying a good management style?  Worth a post on its own; but both jlc and D.C. have posted comments on their experience with Admiral Rickover – seemingly someone no one would want to work for.  But atomic subs got built!

Governor Richard Snelling of Vermont, from whom I learned an incredible amount about both managing and governance, had bullying in his arsenal.  So did Mr. O.  I’ve been gentler than any of the above but they usually got better results.

The fictional Larry Lazard in my novel hackoff.com: an historical murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble was a bully; his results were mixed.

Microsoft Memories is about billg.

Microsoft Meetings is more memories plus a bonus audio clip.

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