Leadership lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs

Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs — CEOs of Microsoft, Intel and Apple, respectively — successfully led their companies through decades of rapidly evolving technology and revolutionized the personal computer more than any of their contemporaries.

Despite the stark differences between the three men — "Gates the pragmatic technocrat; Grove the disciplined engineer; and Jobs the visionary perfectionist" — each shared five key strategies that contributed to their companies' achievement, according to Forbes.

Following the death of Mr. Jobs in 2011, David B. Yoffie, PhD, a professor of international business administration at Harvard Business School and Michael A. Cusumano, PhD, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, began working on their new book, "Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove and Steve Jobs."

Drs. Yoffie and Cusumano identified the following five key strategies the three aforementioned CEOs executed that set them apart as some of technology's most innovative leaders.

1. Look forward, reason back.

2. Make big bets, without betting the company.

3. Build platforms and ecosystems, not just products.

4. Exploit leverage and power.

5. Shape the organization around your personal anchor.

As outlined in Drs. Yoffie and Cusumano's book, one of the most crucial abilities for leaders is not just to picture what the world will look like in five years, but to determine what needs to be done today to achieve that future. Most evidently, Bill Gates was able to see a future in which owning personal computers was the norm at a time when personal computers did not yet exist. Steve Jobs envisioned a future in which consumers would use a range of electronic devices in addition to computers for both communication and entertainment, developing each with progressively more and more capabilities, such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, according to the report.

The notion of establishing entire ecosystems instead of focusing on products individually has also lent each of these entrepreneurs great success. While Mr. Gates realized a single product could not create a lasting competitive advantage, he realized the popularity of a certain platform set the framework for rolling out new products, according to the report. In terms of the Microsoft operating system, this included Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.

Mr. Grove confronted a serious decision in the late 1980s when his engineers determined a way to create a more efficient processor that ended up being incompatible with Intel's previous architecture. After considering the decision for more than a year, Mr. Grove ultimately decided to stick to Intel's previous platform in the name of building an ecosystem over a product, according to the report.

The strategy outlined last in Drs. Yoffie and Cusamano's book, "shape your organization around your personal anchor" is perhaps the most important lesson the three CEOs have taught.

The notion of the personal anchor is supposed to illustrate both what grounds you and what might hold you down. While each leader became hugely successful, they were highly imperfect leaders, according to the report.

However, each was self-aware enough to pin-point his own flaws and weaknesses. According to Dr. Yoffie, "These guys each had very different skills they brought to the table, but they also became successful in part because they were able to figure out what they were not good at, and they were able to fill those gaps by recruiting individuals and forming teams to do the things they couldn't do or wouldn't do or shouldn't do."

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