6 Words That Have Transformed Leadership at Microsoft


Create clarity. Generate energy. Deliver success.

At Microsoft, those six words aren’t just a pithy catch phrase, or a hollow mantra. Because of CEO Satya Nadella’s ongoing commitment to lift Microsoft’s culture, over the past three and a half years those words have come to represent the tech giant’s core leadership principles.

“Quite frankly, this has exploded like wildfire across the company,” says Joe Whittinghill, Microsoft’s General Manager of Talent, Learning, and Development.

Microsoft developed its leadership principles in partnership with the NeuroLeadership Institute back in 2016. Since then, the phrases have become a kind of rallying cry around the company.

Creating clarity helps teams move in the same direction, toward the same purpose. Generating energy breathes life into each project with Nadella’s favorite concept: growth mindset. And delivering success keeps each team solutions- and customer-focused.

As Business Insider’s Ashley Stewart recently explained, those leadership principles sit atop nine core habits, three per principle. These habits serve to turn a somewhat abstract concept into a concrete behavior.

For instance, a leader may wonder, What does it look like to create clarity? But a glance at one of the habits — Ensure shared understanding — can offer some guidance in future conversations and meetings. The leader may ask the group if anything doesn’t make sense, and work to iron out any wrinkles that may come up. In turn, he or she works to serve the larger purpose through a simple habit.

Microsoft’s leadership principles aren’t the only ones helping an organization reinforce its culture. Both HP and Zimmer Biomet have worked with NLI to turn disparate, (often) complicated models into simplified, cohesive frameworks.


Author: Chris Weller