How Microsoft emerged as the contrarian leader in the world economy.
Question: What is the key to leadership in the next economy?
Micklethwait: When we were at “The Witch Doctors,” we went to look at leadership and what’s interesting about leadership is that it’s a subject most open to hot air, basically. Because in the end, leaderships like… it’s like that old definition of pornography, it’s very difficult to find but you know it when you see it and leadership tends to be the same thing and sometimes you get leaders themselves trying to write books about leadership which often end up being somewhat embarrassing, you get attempts where people go back and they look at Alexander the Great or they look at some historical figure and try and draw great, great lessons from it. On the whole, I tend to still think that to the extent that most business is about ideas and change is either the person who’s leading the company has got to be a great source of ideas and change themselves and that applies to particular companies or else they’ve got to have the ability to bring that out in other people and those 2 things go together and sometimes people can go too far in that direction, you definitely got to have the sort of managerial clout to make things work and that’s sort of given, I think, or at least you have to have people around you who know how to do it but you look at the sort of business people who really changed the industry, you look at Bill Gates or [Rupert Murdock], there is an urgency, there’s a restlessness about them which… and a sort of interest in what on earth is going on out there which I think does have an effect, if you want an example, I think you can see that with Gates, a bit with philanthropy, you have this restless, clever person who’s always asking why not? Why can’t we do this? And you argue with the things like anti-trust] perhaps gone too far in that direction but that was basically a very good thing, his desire to always push, I’m often amazed when I look at Microsoft and is on the one hand, you read a lot of stuff about how they have an entrenched monopoly and so on. As economists, we’ve been critically in all of that but the other thing about Microsoft is that transparently not a lazy company. They have this force pushing them, pushing them, pushing them to try and do more stuff and that type of ability, I think, is terribly important and that I think is still the sort of port to leading because at the moment, there is a vast amount of people who know how to run things in a basic straightforward way but it’s the ability to be able to be contrarian, be able to suddenly think that one thing which can shift direction very dramatically that really sets the very, very good people out from the no ones. Think how many business leaders you want to read a book about and to be precise, there’s not that many.