On Satya Nadella and being Indian….


0130-satya-nadella-630x420The ethnic conclusions implied in the title of this Bloomberg article “Why Microsoft and Everyone Else loves Indian CEOs” makes me really uncomfortable.

To be clear, I am very proud that someone from my  “-‘hood” made it to the top of the heap. But what I celebrate here the most is not necessarily that Satya is Indian but that he made it to where he is. As many Indians appreciate, the Indian system doesn’t make it easy for the worthy to rise to the top and so its absolutely great to see how he was able to work hard and be all he could be in the US. But I believe that this would be the case for folks form many many other ethnicities who face similar mobility barriers, be those social, language-related, economic or other wise. Some quotes that I have an issue with….

“Yet there must be a reason why so many Indians, and not, say, Brazilians, Russians or Chinese, have made stellar corporate careers. The answer might be found in studies of the Indian management culture.”

I don’t think citing a few CEOs as the article does makes this statistically relevant. We have seen wildly successful CEOs of other ethnicities across the globe. And it’s also a numbers game – Indians represent a significant immigration pool so the odds are stacked in their / our favor.

And here is another one:

“According to research from St. Gallen University in Switzerland, Indian executives are inclined toward participative management and building meaningful relationships with subordinates. “The leadership style traditionally employed in India fostered an emotional bond between superiors and subordinates,” the 2004 study said. “The feeling that the company genuinely cares for its employees, provided a strong bond of loyalty that went beyond financial rewards.”

Hmm. But there are plenty of companies that don’t espouse a similar management ethos that are wildly successful as well. So it’s not like participative management is always a preferred formula. No doubt it’s a good one but not the only one thats been employed with results.

“Everyone loves Indian CEOs” is a bit much. I would have much preferred something to the effect of “Everyone wants the right kind of competent CEO and once again, the meritocracy of Silicon Valley won’t let ethnicity stand in the way”. But this long-winded title wouldn’t drive page views.  “-)

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Great article. My career has been divided in about half working in the US and India, and “The leadership style traditionally employed in India fostered an emotional bond between superiors and subordinates,” certainly doesn't ring true as a universal fact. It is almost misty eyed romanticizing. It depends on the particular leader. The success of expat communities can be attributed to the general ambition and resourcefulness of all expats. 


It  upsets me how fixated people are on labels; whether it be age, sex, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, height, income, #of twitter followers, klout score or any one of a thousand other parameters!  Tim Cook is not just a gay CEO, he's a CEO. Ginny Rommety is not just a female CEO, she's a CEO.  Ursula Burns is not just a black CEO, she's a CEO. Satya Nadella is not just an Indian CEO, he's a CEO.  Uggg. You nailed it with "right kind of competent CEO" - says the short, white, married, heterosexual, jewish, slightly balding, blue/green eyed, middle class, Canadian.


@SameerPatel nice blog . While I have not worked for an Indian CEO, I have had both good and horrible Indian managers . Ethnicity is not key


.@vijayasankarv agreed. Its Meritocracy that won, here. I'm more proud about bring part of our tech industry b/c of this.

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