The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation William (Bill) H. Gates, III, was born in 1955 and began…

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

William (Bill) H. Gates, III, was born in 1955 and began programming mainframe computers at age 13. While attending Harvard University, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer—-the MITS Altair. In 1975, Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen founded Microsoft as a partnership, and it was incorporated in 1981. He invented the software industry, masterminded the rise of the PC, and has hung in there as a force on the Internet. Bill Gates is consistently ranked as one of the richest men in the world, and was ranked by Fortune as the seventh most powerful businessperson in the world. He retired from Microsoft in 2008 to devote most of his time to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.97 Bill Gates can be abrasive and is known as a demanding boss who encourages creativity and recognizes employee achievements. Several of his early employees are now millionaires. Employees are expected to be well-informed, logical, vocal, and thick-skinned. Teams must present their ideas at “Bill” meetings. During the meetings, Gates often interrupts presentations to question facts and assumptions. He shouts criticisms and challenges team members. Team members are expected to stand up to Gates, giving good logical answers to his questions. Melinda French grew up in Dallas in a hard-working, middle-class family. Unlike Bill, she graduated from college, earning a BA (double major in computer science and economics) and an MBA from Duke University. She went to work for Microsoft in 1987; at age 22 she was the youngest recruit and the only woman among ten MBAs. For nine years she was a hotshot who climbed the corporate ladder to become general manager of information products, managing 300 employees. Along the way, Bill asked her out (in the parking lot), which led to their wedding on January 1, 1994. Melinda stopped working at Microsoft after having the first of their three children (Jennifer, Rory, and Phoebe), but she continued to serve on corporate boards, including that of Duke University. Melinda’s foremost concern is that the kids lead lives as normal as possible. But she remains Bill’s greatest business advisor. He continues to consult her on decisions at Microsoft, and Melinda is credited for helping Bill make better decisions. Now that their youngest child is in school, Melinda is more active in leadership outside the home, and she was ranked as number 1 of the Women to Watch, by The Wall Street Journal.98 Malinda Gates is a total systems thinker who constantly sets and achieves goals. She is known as a strong team builder, who strives for collaboration in decision making. Melinda is loving and charming; she wins people over by being persuasive. She is compassionate and not afraid to get involved as she travels the world to help solve its problems. She held AIDS babies with dirty pants and comforted patients when she visited Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in India. She has more influence than Bill when it comes to investing their assets in philanthropic projects.99 Before Bill and Melinda were even married, they talked about giving away 95 percent of their wealth during their lifetime. That is why they co-founded and co-chair their foundation. They agreed to focus on a few areas of giving, choosing where to place their money by asking two questions: Which problems affect the most people? and Which problems have been neglected in the past? They give where they can effect the greatest change. They have pumped billions into easing the suffering of those plagued by some of the world’s deadliest diseases (AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis) and revitalized failing public high schools in the United States with their financial support.100 Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. It has three Grantmaking Areas: Global Development Program, Global Health Program, and United States Program. So far, it has commitment grants of $16.5 billion. The foundation has an asset trust endowment of $37.3 billion, making it the world’s largest foundation with more than 500 employees.101 Personal friend Warren Buffett has also teamed up with the Gateses and will contribute billions more. The Gates Foundation has already given away more than any other foundation. But they don’t use a go-it-alone approach. They seek partners in their grants to create the best approach to solving world problems. Bill and Melinda will very likely give away more than $100 billion in their lifetime.102 Bill and Melinda are truly world leaders. GO TO THE INTERNET: To learn more about Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation, visit their Web site ( Support your answers to the following questions with specific information from the case and text or with other information you get from the Web or other sources.

  1. What do you think Bill and Melinda Gates’s personality traits are for each of the Big Five dimensions? Compare the two.
  2. Which of the nine traits of effective leaders would you say has had the greatest impact on Bill and Melinda Gates’s success? Compare the two.
  3. Which motivation would McClelland say was the major need driving Bill and Melinda Gates to continue to work so hard despite being worth many billions of dollars?
  4. Do Bill and Melinda Gates have an LMP? Compare the two.
  5. What type of self-concept do Bill and Melinda Gates have, and how does it affect their success?
  6. Is Bill Gates ethical in business at Microsoft? Which level of moral development is he on? CUMULATIVE CASE QUESTION
  7. Which leadership managerial role(s) played by Bill and Melinda Gates have an important part in the success of their foundation (Chapter 1)?

CAS E EX E R C IS E AN D RO LE -P LAY Preparation: Think of a business that you would like to start some day and answer these questions that will help you develop your plan.

(1) What would be your company’s name?

(2) What would be its mission (purpose or reason for being)?

(3) What would your major products and/or services be?

(4) Who would be your major competitors?

(5) What would be your competitive advantage? (What makes you different from your competitors? Why would anyone buy your product or service rather than the competition’s?) Your instructor may elect to let you break into groups to develop a group business idea. If you do a group business, select one leader with a thick skin who can handle a “Bill” meeting to present the proposal to the entire class. An alternative is to have a student(s) who has an actual business idea/project/proposal of any type present it for feedback. Role-Play “Bill” Meeting: One person (representing oneself or a group) may give the business proposal idea to the entire class; or break into groups of five or six and, one at a time, deliver proposals. The members of the class that listen play the role of Bill Gates during the “Bill” meeting, or they challenge presenters and offer suggestions for improvement.

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