Steve Ballmer is misunderstood


In the wake of the Microsoft-Yahoo acquisition proposal, I’ve met quite a few disappointed Yahooligans. And they are not disappointed that they’d be working at Microsoft, they are disappointed that they’d be working for Steve Ballmer. And it’s not just the Yahooligans – I can’t tell you how many random people I’ve met who just simply hate Ballmer. And none of their experiences have been personal. I can see how Ballmer can come across as a mean, shrewd and cocky person who likes to eat babies and kills people for sport, but I’m here to tell you that Ballmer is probably the most intelligent, tactical and loyal person I’ve ever known. Clearly, this is going to be hard to digest especially considering I work at Microsoft.

I know, I know, I’ve seen the videos. I’ve heard about the Lucovsky incident. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. But I don’t think people give Ballmer enough credit. I think people have to realize that this man sleeps like 4 hours a day, if that. Every word coming out of his mouth has the potential to change the world in some way. It’d be ridiculous to think that everything he says out loud hasn’t been planned or rehearsed multiple multiple times (some people think he just mouths off). Take this video for example :

I know it sounds like he’s just saying things for the sake of saying things, but, would this video have made YouTube otherwise? If I had to guess, he was trying to send a strong message subtly (and humorously).

In trying to deal with people who think Ballmer is a psycho, I’ve found that personal experiences don’t work so well. So, I’m going to quote John Wood from Room to Read who wrote “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World“. Please take some time to read this, it’ll help you understand Ballmer a LOT LOT better (please also buy Wood’s book – the proceeds go to a great cause) :

Chapter 15, BUILDING “THE MICROSOFT OF NONPROFITS”, Pg 146 :

Here was a guy worth over $10 billion, but he had not lost his human element or his willingness to look out for his team members. He’s a man who demands intense loyalty from his team. He more than reciprocates.

Pg 147-148 :

The next time I saw Steve was the day after the Boston marathon.

I rushed from the Seattle airport to the downtown Sheraton and walked into the meeting ten minutes into Steve’s presentation. Over 1,000 people were in the room, so I was not worried about anyone noticing my late arrival.

As I was talking to colleagues, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an entourage moving at warp speed in our direction. It was Steve, with twelve disciples trailing in his wake. As he passed us, he stopped, spun 90 degrees on his heels, and stared me in the eye. Holy shit, I thought, did he actually notice me walk in late? A maniacal grin crossed his face, he raised his right arm (to hit me?), and bellowed out in his inimitable style: “Three hours and four minutes in the Boston Marathon. Great time! Well run!

“Wait. Stop! How did you know that?” Another abrupt halt. He grinned and with gusto boomed, “I know everything about my people!” That loyalty, more than anything else, explains why so many people who have worked for Steve are, to this day, intensely loyal to him.

Tell me that didn’t just give you goose bumps.

From Bad Boy Ballmer :

Ballmer adjectives abound. Steve’s described as “richly experienced.” “hyper-competitive,” “hardworking,” “relentless,” “a bully,” “Mr. Loud,” “quick-witted,” “impatient with fools,” and “sharply critical.” He’s Microsoft’s “chief coach, cheerleader, and hatchet man” who “focuses with laser intensity.”

Ballmer is Microsoft. Ballmer comes across as a mean bully, but I can only guess that this persona he carries around is for good reason. And he says what he says for good reason. What I like about him the most, is that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He’s trying to do his job and keep the company successful no matter what it takes, and for that, I totally respect the man.

ai

Comments (15)

  1. Anon says:

    From his interviews he does not appear to be that intelligent and does not know how to respond and at times seems to be ignorant of Microsoft things. Take today’s announcement today about Interoperability: Someone asked if Microsoft will continue with the standardization of Open XML and Ballmer, instead of expalining that Microsoft will not only continue with this standardization but has also even published documentation for the binary formats of previous Office, he instead gave a standard legalistic answer. Also, the way he presented its like reading from the press release. It appears totally unimaginative and extremely boring. I could probably speak better than him and make customer more excited. Ray Ozzie is certainly better at that. And Ray does not make provokative remarks about Linux violating Microsoft patents. Ballmer appears to be out of touch with the community and focused only on how to make Microsoft succeed but does not care about its image.

  2. ai says:

    @Anon,

    Ballmer has always been the business guy. His goal is to make Microsoft succeed, and he will not let anything get in the way of that. I cannot do much other than tell you that he is not ignorant. As you can tell from John Wood’s excerpt, the guys is amazingly in tune with everything that’s happening within the company. That’s the kind of guy that he is. You have to understand that he is the CEO – every word has to be accounted for.

    I’m sure there are several people out there who can speak better than him, but the point of my post was to tell you that he is much more intelligent than he makes himself appear. He really is.

    ai

  3. pK says:

    kiss ass 😉

  4. Fon says:

    10 bucks says that ai is FSB (fake steve ballmer – http://fakesteveballmer.blogpost.com/). I’d bet more money, except that I don’t care (about Ballmer or Fake Ballmer).

  5. I love this video clip!  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen an audience laugh with/at/about Ballmer.  It is positively refreshing, although I think there will be a recut of search comments he made ’cause you know what EVERYONE was thinking when he said it.

  6. steveballmer says:

    Thank you Anand! It isn’t often that someone can see past the surface and know my heart, my pain!

  7. Funny guy says:

    Be careful. Ballmer can be to the beach and you die drowned

  8. Dominic says:

    From someone who laughed at the Iphone and said that it would not sell.

    To sack ballmer from Microsoft would do Microsoft a heck of good publicity as among the computing world he as seen as an idiot.

    Even Paul Thurrot says he is not in the same class as Ray Ozzie or Bill Gates.

    Microsoft will be thankful once he is gone

  9. stargazer says:

    Why is it that the most likely place for an Indian guy in FOSS is on the other side of the fence?  Sniveling guys like you and Sandy Gupta (ex-SCO) let the rest 1 billion of us down.

  10. aniyer says:

    @stargazer,

    Listen, asshole…

    How exactly did you determine what my position on FOSS was? And next time, if you dont want to leave behind a name or a link to your actual blog, dont even bother leaving a comment.

    Assholes like you let the rest of your assholic community down.

    ai

  11. aniyer says:

    @dominic,

    Have you ever worked at Microsoft? Do you know even know how our organization is structured?

    As I said, Ballmer *is* Microsoft. Ozzie and Gates are the technical, architectural and design powerhouses. Ballmer is everything else. Without him, this company would fall apart.

    As the leader of a company that creates OSs that targets phones, how was he supposed to react when someone were to ask him about the iPhone? I think everything he said was spot on. I suggest you go back and look at the video more carefully.

    ai

  12. Norman Cho says:

    Actually, Anand, the problem is not that no one understands Steve Ballmer. It’s that they understand him better than you do. Even the captain of a pirate ship has to command the loyalty of his crew or he would get nowhere. Ballmer gets bad press because Microsoft exploits its market dominance to ship mediocre products (Vista comes to mind), uses illegal tactics to eliminate competitors (Netscape comes to mind), and is willing to spread FUD (Linux breaching Microsoft patents) to further the cause. Even Attila the Hun probably commanded tremendous loyalty from his troops. The greater test is whether he treats others for whom he has no use with the same humanity.

    To be fair to the guy, it’s probably not all down to him but as you say, HE IS MICROSOFT.

  13. I’d mulled over my post on Steve Ballmer being misunderstood for a long time before I actually posted

  14. I'd mulled over my post on Steve Ballmer being misunderstood for a long time before I actually posted