Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Says What Separates Successful People From Everyone Else Really Comes Down to Two Words

Studies show companies that prioritize this people skill experience higher productivity and employee engagement.


When Satya Nadella was appointed as Microsoft CEO in 2014, he wasn’t one to boast about IQ points or intellectual achievements. He understood that being a leader wasn’t just about knowing all the answers; it was about understanding people and building meaningful connections.


To be effective and separate oneself from the pack, Nadella pared it down to two words: emotional intelligence.


‘EQ trumps IQ’


In a highly publicized event nearly a decade ago, Nadella addressed thousands of students on the subject of their future and possibilities. During his talk, he spoke about the importance of developing emotional intelligence (EQ):

In the long run, EQ trumps IQ. Without being a source of energy for others very little can be accomplished.


Studies show companies that prioritize emotional intelligence in their workers experience higher productivity and employee engagement than those that neglect it.


Where technological advancements often take the spotlight, the significance of emotional intelligence can sometimes be overlooked. However, leaders like Satya Nadella have shown that emotional intelligence is not just a nice-to-have trait but a crucial element for achieving lasting success in the corporate landscape.


There are several ways that leaders and high achievers can utilize emotional intelligence as a strength to improve their own performance and the workplace.


1. Give people a voice


Two decades ago, I reported to an executive with EQ and learned a valuable lesson I’ve carried with me to this day. I was leading a team through a challenging project. The pressure was on, and tensions were high. We had a quiet team member struggling to find his voice amidst the chaos. Instead of bulldozing ahead with his own ideas, the executive (our boss) took a step back, approached the team member, and asked, “What do you think?”


The effect was astounding. The team member’s face lit up, and he began to share his insights. It turned out he had a brilliant solution that hadn’t been considered before. The project went on to be a resounding success, and we all learned a crucial lesson: leadership was about empowering others and valuing their perspectives.


2. Lead with authenticity


Emotional intelligence isn’t about being overly sentimental or soft-hearted. It’s about understanding the emotions, motivations, and aspirations of the people you work with. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.


The key is to actively listen, empathize, and lead with authenticity. It’s recognizing and managing one’s own emotions because a higher performer or leader who can’t or won’t navigate their own feelings often struggles to guide a team effectively.


3. Acknowledge you don’t know everything


It’s rather uncomfortable admitting you don’t know something when people expect you to have answers. Garry Ridge, Chairman Emeritus of WD-40 Company, had a counterintuitive perspective when he was CEO. Ridge said “I don’t know” are the three most powerful words he’s ever learned in his life. When he got comfortable with not knowing, he began to learn and grow.


“As soon as you make out you know everything, you shut down all the opportunity to learn more and get different points of view,” said Ridge. “So not only do I get comfortable with ‘I don’t know,’ but even more today, I keep asking myself, ‘Why do I believe that?’ Because the world’s changing so quickly.”


As you investigate your own leadership style, keep this in mind: True leadership isn’t about having all the answers but about creating a space for collective brilliance to flourish.


As for Satya Nadella, he continues to lead Microsoft through emotional intelligence, proving that it isn’t just a buzzword but a powerful force that can shape the future of leadership in the tech world and beyond.



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