Vanity Fair has a long, excellent, look at the recent turmoil at Microsoft.
In the story, it has this description of Bill Gates, which is just about perfect:
[Steve] Ballmer might be a complicated character, but he has nothing on Gates, whose contradictions have long fascinated Microsoft-watchers. He is someone who has no problem humiliating individuals — he might not even notice — but who genuinely cares deeply about entire populations and is deeply loyal. He is generous in the biggest ways imaginable, and yet in small things, like picking up a lunch tab, he can be shockingly cheap. He can’t make small talk and can come across as totally lacking in E.Q. “The rules of human life that allow you to get along are not complicated,” says one person who knows Gates. “He could write a book on it, but he can’t do it!”
But he combines that with flashes of insight and humour that leave some wondering whether he can’t do it or simply chooses not to, or both. His most pronounced characteristic shouldn’t be simply labelled a competitive streak, because it is really a fierce, deep need to win. The dislike it bred among his peers in the industry is well known — “Silicon Bully” was the title of an infamous magazine story about him. And yet he left Microsoft for the philanthropic world, where there was no one to bully, only intractable problems to solve.
Today, the public Bill Gates seems polished, without many traces of the badly groomed enfant terrible of Microsoft’s early days, who would rock when he spoke and eviscerate an underling who gave him an answer he didn’t like. Many people credit his wife, Melinda, for the improvements. “Bill is smart enough to construct himself as a human being with Melinda’s help,” says someone who has known him for decades.
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