Why I think Satya Nadella is the real deal when it comes to trust.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear dozens of business leaders speak at the World Economic Forum held in Davos. The erosion of trust (and how to rebuild it) was a reoccurring theme. In many of the sessions, I found myself feeling frustrated or tuning out — I didn’t believe the person on the stage really meant or knew how to turn the idea of trust into behaviours that could make their cultures more trustworthy.

One leader, Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, felt different. He is 5-years into the journey of changing the culture and values with 130,000 employees and 1.2 billion customers.

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Nadella spoke about the power of shifting the focus at Microsoft from products to the people they serve. He changed the company’s mission changed from “A computer on every desk” to “Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.” However, the mission change wasn’t just symbolic. As Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s CMO put it: “We went from a culture of know-it-alls to a culture of learn-it-alls.” I love that.

Within his first year as CEO, he set aside hostile standoffs and differences with competitors including Salesforce and Apple to make Microsoft available across platforms.

As I was listening to Nadella, I kept asking myself why do I believe this guy? Yes, his sincerity and humility are incredibly refreshing, but there was a deeper thread to what Nadella was saying. Then I realised this:

The code for changing the culture of a 130,000-person company is all about achieving integrity at scale.

Integrity is one of the trickiest traits of trustworthiness. At its heart, it comes down to alignment — whether or not the intentions of a company align with the best interests of the people it serves. When companies start-out, they often have a people-driven mission: to solve a problem or create positive change in the world. However, as they scale, growth for the sake of growth often becomes the main priority, and the people-orientated intentions become lost somewhere along the way. Size and profit, to become as big as possible, become the goal. However, great leaders, even during periods of rapid growth or change, are consistent in the alignment of a company’s motives and intentions with the people they serve. Great leaders are consistent in the alignment of their words and actions.

That’s why I think I trust Satya Nadella.

P.S Here’s a beautiful interview of Nadella in conversation with Adam Grant: https://leadershipcenter.wharton.upenn.edu/interview/authorswharton-presents-satya-nadella-conversation-adam-grant/