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Why Microsoft Wants Satya Nadella

The head of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise division's contribution to the company and vision for its future are among the key elements a leader needs.
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Until recently, Satya Nadella's name was rarely mentioned outside of Microsoft circles. But if the rumors are true that the company wants him to fill the hole left by former chief executive Steve Ballmer, you may get used to hearing it a lot more often. 

Due to Nadella's deep understanding of Microsoft and where enterprise storage is headed, the rumors are no surprise. You might think of Box CEO (and Inc. Entrepreneur of the Year) Aaron Levie when you think of cloud storage, but Nadella is also a key person to watch. His expertise and institutional knowledge, along with many other traits, have made him a strong candidate for the promotion--and provide a good template for what you need to be an effective leader. Here's why he's poised to get the job.  

He's proven himself. 

Nadella led engineering on Microsoft's popular search tool, Bing, and prior to that steered the company's online advertising efforts. The Indian-born executive's reputation has grown further from his leadership of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise division, which brought record revenue in its most recent quarter--a $3 billion year-over-year increase. 

He sees the cloud's future. 

In a widely circulated interview with Quartz, Nadella explained where IT spending is headed: to remote servers. "In the past, there was hardware, software, and platforms on top of which there were applications. Now they're getting conflated," he said. "That is all going to get disrupted by the move to the cloud. Because when somebody is running their application on Azure [Microsoft's cloud platform], they're not having to buy hardware, to set up their own network, or to do a lot of things that they did in the past." 

He's likeable. 

How much this counts for is debatable, but most reports of Nadella describe him as a smart, persuasive, and likeable individual. He was born in Hyderabad, India, and studied engineering there before moving to the United States, giving him uncommon technical expertise and understanding of foreign cultures--key assets as Microsoft deepens its presence abroad.

He gets Microsoft. 

Despite never running a company, Nadella lives and breathes Microsoft, where he's worked for 20 years. Although many on Wall Street speculate whether an insider can help push it forward, the company stands to benefit by having someone who believes deeply in its mission and knows all its kinks, inside and out. After all, great leaders are communicative people, and no one has proven he can reshape departments--and keep them running--quite like Nadella.

IMAGE: Heisenberg Media/Flickr
Last updated: Jan 31, 2014

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.




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