So, Who Is Steve Ballmer Really?

I always chuckled at at the various comedic stories and faces of Steve Ballmer. YouTube videos of him ‘whooping it up’ and screaming on stage made him out to be more of a jester than the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

I had the opportunity to see him going at it this past Thursday at the Microsoft Company Meeting at Safeco Field. Here’s my perspective. I have one question:

What is the role of the CEO?

A CEO should align the company’s operations with its long-term vision. The CEO should help provide the motivation and drive for employees to achieve all that they can. The CEO should ensure that the company achieves its goals quarter after quarter, year after year. In the case of Microsoft, the way that happens is through its employees.

As much as Ballmer is panned by the press for his antics, I have never heard anyone deliver any speech with such passion, belief, and inspiration as the one I heard at 3:00pm this past Thursday. I’d be a bit surprised if there was anyone in that stadium that wasn’t at all moved by the speech. In this capacity, Steve Ballmer more than surpassed his requirement to motivate the troops.

Yeah, he ran around slapping hands and yelling into his mic. Yeah, he grabbed an employee’s iPhone and pretended to stomp on it. But those ‘boos and jeers‘ from the employees? They were in support of Ballmer, against the iPhone. The thing these publications and commentors don’t understand is that the employees like Ballmer. His speeches are about how important the employees are to the company and to him. They are about his belief in the company’s ability to win. They are about making the employees feel great about their company and their past, present and future accomplishments.

The reaction to the speech was electric. You could feel the pride swell in the ranks. You could feel Ballmer’s unadulterated passion rippled through the crowd. If an hour of his time can increase productivity in the employee base by 1%, it’d be worth it. He left things off with ‘Let It Rock’ by Kevin Rudolf, an appropriate choice given the last slide of his presentation on how the employees and products of Microsoft rock.

I have a new profound respect for Steve Ballmer. Although only two weeks into my internship, I feel a deep pride for working at Microsoft, no matter what is said about the company or how people perceive it. While writing my intern commitments this past Friday, I re-listened to parts of the speech, because it was simply that inspiring. I wish I could convey to you some of the comments he made. I think it would change many peoples’ prejudices towards the man.

So, who is Steve Ballmer? He helps run one of the world’s most successful companies. He is loved by his employees. He is possibly the most inspiring and passionate person I’ve ever met. He is someone I would want to work for.

I’ll post up something ambiguous (as not to violate NDA) tomorrow on what I thought about the other company meeting presentations.

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