Intel co-founder Andy Grove passed away on March 21, 2016, at the age of 79. As the first COO and third employee of Intel, Grove was one of the most influential leaders in modern times.
As astonishing as his technological contributions were, he also lived according to many principles that everyone can apply to their own lives. I've identified 5 lessons that strongly resonated with me, and share them with you here.
Our beginnings shape us, but they are not our destiny.
Grove was born in Hungary, into a middle class family. When he was 8 years old, the Nazis invaded Hungary, and deported 500,000 Jews to the concentration camps. He and his mother assumed fake identities and survived by living with family friends. He lived in Austria until the age of 20. Then, the International Rescue Committee helped him immigrate from Austria to the United States.
At 21, completely broke and unable to speak English, he secured his first job as a busboy in a New York restaurant. He immediately pursued his education, earning a Bachelor's Degree in chemical engineering from City College of New York in 1960, and a PhD in chemical engineering from University of California, Berkeley in 1963. Grove's work ethic and brilliance led to many career options. He accepted a position at Fairchild Semiconductor Research Laboratory, a subsidiary of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, in California.
Two of his bosses, Robert Noyce and George Moore, predicted that computer chips would double in power and be halved in price every eighteen months. In 1968 Noyce and Moore established Intel, raising $2.3 million in start-up capital. Grove was Noyce and Moore's first hire, who fully appreciated the freedoms and opportunities that America offered to those who were willing to work hard.
Every decision is simply a doorway to another level of growth.
Complacency is the greatest danger to any organization. Grove had an insatiable curiosity about the way things worked. Harvard Business School Professor and close friend Clayton Christensen said that Andy was never satisfied with any decision he ever made. "It seemed that the day after they made a decision, Andy and his colleagues would start to argue again.
"That is why Intel under Andy Grove was continuously improving. They were always trying to improve everything, said Christensen." One of my favorite Andy Grove quotes? "The greatest danger is in standing still."
Humility keeps us grounded, connected, and employed.
Andy Grove was known to use his confidence in a way that made everyone around him feel more confident as well. There was never an air of inequality or superiority.
In a review of his second book, "Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company and Career," Harvard Business Review summarized that "only the humble survive."
CEOs should always consider themselves replaceable, and shouldn't assume that they are too important to avoid irrelevance. "If existing management wants to keep their jobs when the basics of the business are undergoing profound change, they must adopt an outsider's intellectual objectivity," Grove wrote.
Remove communications barriers whenever possible.
Grove was one of the first executives to sit in an office cube with his employees. He created this arrangement to eliminate barriers between the executive team and the staff, and to make himself available for all feedback.
Nikil Saval, author of "Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace," credits Grove with being one of the first CEOs to establish a non-hierarchical workplace culture.
Seize every opportunity to teach others.
Andy Grove was known not only for his teaching in the classroom, but also as a one-to-one mentor. Grove mentored everyone from his employees to Silicon Valley icons including Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates.
Grove used every experience in his life as a teaching tool for others. Even when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996, he publicly faced it head on, and covered his own medical journey in a cover story for Fortune Magazine. For Andy, every life experience was a teaching tool.
Undoubtedly, the world has lost one of its most brilliant and important pioneers. He is proof that even those that come from the most difficult of circumstances, with the odds stacked against them, can evolve into one of the most important people in history.
Grove has shown us what happens when genius is given the chance to develop into its greatest potential. He has shown us what happens when we choose to embrace every opportunity that life presents us.
Andy Grove not only helped to develop a technological world that most of us could not have even imagined; he now serves as a symbol of hope for what is still possible.
Rest in Peace Andy Grove. May your memory be a source of blessing, strength, and comfort to all who know and love you.