Hit Refresh – Satya Nadella

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nadella’s Hit Refresh can be described more as a journal on transformation covering the trials and triumphs of his journey to becoming the CEO of one of the largest tech companies on the planet. In an incredibly open, and engaging way, he shares insights from his childhood in India, and the wonderful influence his parents have had on how he sees the world. He covers a lot of ground, giving perspectives from the lessons he has picked up from the world of cricket, moving countries, becoming a parent, and tackling unchartered waters in the workplace. 

Big Message/ Key Quotes:


  • On transformation – this is the change that occurs within a person, within an organisation, instigated by the need to give empowerment to people, which is driven by a sense of empathy. We are amid a very profound metamorphosis that will change every aspect of how life is lived, as more AI, hybrid-reality and quantum computing technologies mature and become mainstream
  • Learning to lead – there are 3 principles that have served Nadella well;
    • Compete vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty and intimidation
    • the importance of putting your team first, ahead of your personal statistics and recognition. One brilliant character who does not put the team first can destroy the entire team
    • the central importance of leadership means getting to know the strengths of your team, which means sometimes putting the training wheels on until they get the confidence in themselves 


  • Keeping products fresh – taking on learnings from Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple, there is one common mantra to staying relevant and fresh…agility, agility, agility. Which means agility at every level, and getting into the mindset of shipping code at a more modern, and faster pace
  • Tackling the cloud – perhaps one of the most significant leadership lessons presented in Hit Refresh is the fact that a leader must have the ability to spot external market opportunities, and then assess how the internal culture and capabilities connect to leverage the value. Nadella described this more as an art form not a science…you get some wrong, and some right but its all about improving the overall batting average for a leader
  • New Mission, New Momentum – some of the questions Nadella put to himself as he took on the role of CEO in 2014 included: what is my vision? what is the strategy to achieve it? what does success look like? and where to get started? These questions have resulted in defining the core processes adopted by Microsoft to enable its renewal. The central theme of this questioning was to establish, or more importantly, re-establish Microsoft’s overall raison d’etre….democratising and personalising technology
  • Cultural Values – first order of the day was for Nadella to help steer Microsoft back to its original calling…changing the world, and now doing that through listening to customers. Developing offerings that make a difference in day-today life for consumers, individuals, developing countries, businesses etc. The cultural change agenda was updated to include:
    • Customer obsession
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • One Company, one Microsoft  

All of which gets underlined by some core leadership principles; bringing clarity to those you work with, to note that leaders generate energy, and finally leaders find always to deliver success, and make things happen

  • Frenemies, Rival to Partner – perhaps one of the cleverest moves made by the Nadella-era of Microsoft, was ending the rivalry with Apple. Through a higher degree of openness and understanding, both companies were able to come to the table and develop Office for iOS…once again proving that often companies are stronger through collaboration
  • Time management – using a simple mental model to understand how time can be utilised more effectively. The model covers employees, customers, products, and partners, each one of these in turn requires focus and attention to breed success
  • Broader Social, Economic & Political Responsibility – as the connected world becomes more complex to navigate across the dimensions of trust, security, and privacy… there is a cautionary note. It is no longer enough for companies to create great tech and experience, but to participate in a broader social agenda which is examined by Nadella. The corporate role needs to extend to support areas like law enforcement, protection of privacy, supporting civil liberties, and the automation of jobs through AI. It is Nadella’s comprehension of the interplay between these broader perspectives, and the world of business, that sets him apart from other CEOs…he puts the hard questions clearly on the table, and works to solve for them through collaboration and grit

Why read this book?

Written for anyone interesting in getting insight into another more lateral, modern, and progressive leadership style, as well as being interested in the world of technology. A great summary of Microsoft’s evolution, as well as a fantastic overview of Nadella journey to becoming the CEO of one the most enduring tech companies of our time.




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