6 Satya Nadella Quotes to Inspire Business Leaders

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hit Refresh" by Satya Nadella. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the best Satya Nadella quotes from Hit Refresh? How do these statements succinctly capture the book’s message?

Hit Refresh describes how Satya Nadella brought new life to Microsoft by rediscovering its “soul” when he took over as CEO in 2014. He articulated the company’s mission, transformed the corporate culture, and formed strategic partnerships with Microsoft’s fiercest competitors.

Let’s take a look at some quotes that highlight the book’s principles.

Satya Nadella Quotes From Hit Refresh

We’ve chosen six Satya Nadella quotes from Hit Refresh and included some context and explanation to help you understand what he was trying to get across.

”I learned that, only through living life’s ups and downs, can you develop empathy; that, in order not to suffer, or at least not to suffer so much, one must become comfortable with impermanence.”

Nadella acknowledges that empathy was something he had to develop early in his career. He cites his son’s disabilities as helping him to become a more empathetic person. Faced with the reality of his son’s permanent condition, he writes that he learned to put aside his own feelings in order to better understand the struggles his son faced, and, with his wife Anu’s encouragement, learned how to become a strong support for his son.

(Shortform note: Nadella’s son, Zain, was born with cerebral palsy and required extensive therapy and visits to the ICU. In 2021, Nadella and his wife donated $15 million to Seattle Children’s Hospital—which Nadella described in Hit Refresh as their family’s “second home”—in support of care and research for children with neurological conditions. Zain died in 2022 at the age of 26.)

“The next time you are in a meeting, ask the quietest person what they think. Invite everyone into the conversation. If you are on a conference call, ask the people on the phone to share their thoughts first.”

Nadella believes the CEO must actively seek out employee feedback and be willing to listen to their ideas and concerns with an open mind. He writes that, when he took over as CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he made a public promise to employees that he would listen to others to take stock of where the company was and the problems it faced. He actively solicited employee feedback through wide-ranging surveys and meetings in which he encouraged open conversation and debate.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Nadella believes that, as CEO, his first and most important job is to foster a good corporate culture. Thus, refreshing corporate culture was at the top of his priority list when he took on the leadership of Microsoft in 2014.

“You must always have respect for your competitor, but don’t be in awe.”

Nadella notes that it’s easy to be bitter that others like Apple and Google have raced ahead in areas like mobile. He also writes the press loves pitting companies against each other to fuel cutthroat competition. However, he doesn’t believe that envy and spitefulness are good drivers for success. Instead, he adheres to a lesson about competition that he learned from his cricket days: Be respectful of your rivals and don’t let intimidation prevent you from taking pride in what you do and performing at your best.

“Innovation was being replaced by bureaucracy. Teamwork was being replaced by internal politics. We were falling behind.”

One barrier to innovation that Nadella wanted to address at Microsoft was the bureaucracy and isolation between departments that had built up over the years. He asserts that such segregation only holds a company back; the key to moving forward is collaboration and being open to other people’s ideas instead of remaining in your own bubble.

“Every person, organization, and even society reaches a point at which they owe it to themselves to hit refresh—to reenergize, renew, reframe, and rethink their purpose.”

Hit Refresh is Satya Nadella’s account of how he took over as Microsoft’s CEO in 2014 and sought to rejuvenate the company after a long period of stagnation and decline. He describes how he reinvigorated the company by rediscovering its “soul”: He articulated the company’s mission and reminded everyone of the why behind their work, transformed the corporate culture from one plagued with in-fighting to one of collaboration, and formed strategic partnerships with Microsoft’s fiercest competitors.

Throughout the book, Nadella discusses the key leadership principles that helped him “hit refresh” on Microsoft and the business practices that allowed the company to thrive once again.

Hit Refresh includes a foreword by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, where he explains the significance of the title: When you hit the refresh button on your browser, you don’t start from scratch; instead, you keep some of the page on your screen. He likens this to how Nadella didn’t turn Microsoft into a completely different company but instead expanded the company’s focus beyond Windows and into exciting new territory.

6 Satya Nadella Quotes to Inspire Business Leaders

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Here's what you'll find in our full Hit Refresh summary:

  • How Satya Nadella brought Microsoft back from its decline
  • Actionable advice to help you reinvigorate your company
  • A look at the ethical responsibilities of tech companies

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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