Hit Refresh – The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone is the new book by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella which is taking the town by storm. But in many ways, it’s a peek into Satya’s soul itself; a story about the life experiences that defined him, the values he holds close to his heart, and his vision for the future of technology.
In a fireside chat with former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble in the capital today, the Microsoft CEO shone a light on all these and more. But one of the most significant things that he talked about was what values he holds dear to his heart as a parent and leader. And Nadella’s humbling answer was “empathy”.
“One of the things that I have realisedn in terms of who I am as a leader as part of writing this book is that you are the culmination/combination of your own life’s experiences. Whether it is a team sport you played growing up or you as a parent or even a leader. Sometimes we think we can compartmentalise. But one can’t as we are much more integrated in what we are and what are experiences we have. The value that I have learnt to deeply appreciate is this thing that I talk a lot about – empathy. I am not saying that somehow we are all born with this innate capability but it’s through life’s experiences that we are able to see more of us in others and them in us, to lead, to innovate and to be a better parent. That’s the value I have come to realise the most.”
Speaking further about the hit refresh moments that have transformed their lives, Anil Kumble disclosed that as a cricketer he had to hit refresh before the end of every season. For Satya, however, the birth of his son was one of those moments which had deep impact on him.
He revealed, “I was 29, and both my wife and me were only children. So we were very excited, and focused on what this will do to our weekends, when will Anu ( wife Anupama Nadella) get back to work, and what have you. Then of course, Zain was born and everything changed because he had in utero asphyxiation. So he was born with severe cerebral palsy. For the first multiple years, I struggled with it. I would always think about why these things happened to me. All these plans we had were no longer valid. It was only in watching Anu and what came much more naturally to her, which was giving him a best shot, I realised over time that nothing had happened to me. It was Zain who was affected and I needed to step up as a father.” That for Satya was a defining moment of who he was as a leader.
Transforming Microsoft Through Empathy
When Kumble asked Satya how empathy has helped transform Microsoft, he said, “Microsoft’s core business is to meet unmet, unarticulated needs of customers. There is no way we can succeed in something like that if we don’t have that deep sense of empathy. What is it that the customers are not just telling us, but what is it that they really need from us?”