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10 leadership lessons from LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer, owner of the NBA’s LA Clippers, was a special guest at the Greater Los Angeles Area Council’s Business Leaders’ Breakfast last month.

During his remarks, which you can watch in full below, Ballmer offered several nuggets of wisdom about leadership.

Wearing a green BSA ballcap when he came onstage, Ballmer was his usual engaging self. He was funny and relaxed. That winning persona defined his 14 years as CEO of Microsoft.

Ballmer said he was never a Boy Scout, but he said he admires the Boy Scouts and our commitment to building leaders.

10 leadership lessons from Steve Ballmer

  1. “As a leader, accountability is a fundamental thing. You’ve got to be honest and have high integrity.”
  2. “Dream big but deliver accountably.”
  3. “Strive for personal excellence, but be open and honest and dedicated to making others better.”
  4. “Turns out the most important part of leadership is picking the direction to go.”
  5. “The biggest failures are usually failures of people — putting the wrong people in the wrong job at the wrong time.”
  6. “If something’s not working, you change it up. You adapt. You follow somebody else.”
  7. “A winning team starts with deciding what kind of people will fit well in the culture you want to build.”
  8. “When we started early [hiring for Microsoft], we didn’t prioritize experience. We just said we want people who are very smart and live, eat, breathe and sleep what they do. We built a winning team largely on that principle.”
  9. “You really have to pick leaders who embody the kind of culture you want to build.”
  10. “People who give up early are people who are going to fail.”

Watch the complete remarks

Joining him onstage for the discussion was James Ellis, dean of the University of Southern California’s business school.

Watch the full remarks from these two great leaders below.


Thanks to Michael Marks for the story idea.

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