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Forbes interview -- April 11, 2009

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 26, 2004

Meet Bill Gates, Chairman of the directors of Microsoft, a lawn care and live bait provider headquartered in Stuttgart, Arkansas. We asked him to tell us a little bit about what got him to where he is today.

Q. Bill, is it true you instituted the Jesuit-inspired Heroic Leadership (HL) program at Microsoft back in '04?

It is, Rich. You see, I felt at the time that Microsoft, while we enjoyed a high level of technical ability, lacked the international outlook and vision that the Jesuit model of discernment could provide. I asked Jesuit Vinny O'Callaghan to talk to our management team, and the rest is history.

Q. Can you tell us a little about that history?

Well, in FY 2003 we had quarterly earnings of $7.75 billion and nearly 23,000 salaried employees in 26 countries. Today, thanks to HL, there's me and Skeeter (he got one ear chewed off in a fight with a Rottweiler). I rent space up to Duane's Texaco for the bait shop and I'm waiting to get my mower back from the welder's on Tuesday. Busted the casing on a cee-ment block.

Q. How do you account for this fantastic change in Microsoft management style?

You know Rich, it's a matter of attitude. You need to think positive. You need people who can see a problem in qualitative rather than quantitative terms, people who understand that the truth isn't something "out there," but something we make anew each morning of our lives.

Q. Bill, could you give us a "for instance"?

At Vinny's urging we hired the theology department of Loyola University Chicago to examine the machine language we used in our software code so as to correct it for masculinist bias -- left-brain linear thinking stuff. Well it didn't take long to see lots of red ink showing up on the books. For a while there our liabilities were outgrowing assets so fast the stockholders thought there must have been a printer's error. I confess I was starting to panic myself.

Q. How did HL help?

We hired all new accountants. Right-brain accountants. Accountants who could point out that "black ink" and "red ink" are purely conventional notions in the way they're used now. There's nothing intrinsically "bad" (whatever that means) about red or inherently "good" about black. It's obvious once you think about it, but it took the Jesuits to bring it home to me.

Q. Why aren't more businesses doing things that would make them more Jesuit-like?

Beats me, Rich. By the way, could you loan me eight bucks fifty? I still owe Duane for the nightcrawlers.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: AveMaria580 - Apr. 26, 2004 12:27 PM ET USA

    “Ignatius taught detachment, but it was always ‘for” something,” Lowney said. “In his case it was for God. In a corporation it is to maximize shareholder value.” This must be one of the most pathetic statements I have read. If someone can make that comment with a straight face, I don't see anyway to communicate with that person. Having worked for large corps for 37 years I can say that detachment is refusing to deal with inefficiency in the workplace while downsizing to increase profits.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 26, 2004 7:28 AM ET USA

    It is unfortunate that the Jesuits have become who they are today. Chris Lowney in the hyperlink article does recognize St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits and their virtues of Heroism, Love, Obedience and Humility. He also makes reference to their practice of Examination of Conscience. Good stuff. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the HL program will be very successful. Hitler wanted the SS to use Jesuit methods. It failed. The source of any successful program must be the Holy Spirit and the Chuch.

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