‘Empathy’ and ‘learning from life’s experiences’ are mantras that Microsoft’s India-born CEO Satya Nadella feels play a crucial role in determining the success of individuals and organisations. The tech titan is in India on a two-day visit to promote his book ‘Hit Refresh’. In a free-wheeling chat with former cricketer Anil Kumble, Nadella talked about his love for cricket, the importance of empathy and its significance in personal and professional lives. Nadella, 50, described how the birth of his son, Zain, (who was born with severe cerebral palsy) had a “deep impact” on him and was his ‘Hit Refresh’ moment. He recounted that he was 29 when he and his wife, Anupama, had their first child. He reminisced being both excited and nervous at that time, and struggling thereafter to come to terms with their son’s condition.
“…for the first multiple years I struggled with it…it was only in watching Anu (his wife) and what came much more naturally to her…seeing her giving him the best shot is when I realised that…I needed to step up as a parent,” he said in a chat with former cricketer Anil Kumble. The episode — which Nadella described as a defining monment in his life — also shaped him into the leader he is today. A person is a culmination and combination of one’s life experiences, Nadella said adding that he had also come to deeply appreciate the value of empathy in life and workplace.
“There is no way we are going to succeed in something like that if we don’t have deep sense of empathy. I think of empathy as not just as something nice to have, but core to innovation agenda in a company,” he added. Nadella also spoke about his love for cricket and the lessons he learnt from the sport that are relevant to a corporate boardroom as well. He cited the example of the team he was a part of, and how he learnt that while it is important to compete aggressively and with passion, it is also critical for a leader to put the team first.