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Through the Gates

Most people who have worked on a recently-founded (often, small) non-profit organization probably have lived through the scenario: The key person, the person whose efforts led to the founding and blossoming of the organization, is still around. That doesn’t mean they’re unwelcome or unneeded, or that they aren’t helpful. But an organization doesn’t really, truly become a freestanding organization until the founder lets it go. And then it either flies off on its own – like a child leaving the nest – or crashes. Sometimes the foudners step back willingly or even eagerly, sometimes they’re reluctant to let go, sometimes they’re pushed out. But only after the founder steps back does the organization really live as an independent entity.

Bill GatesBill Gates apparently understands that.

From the day it was birthed, Microsoft has been Bill Gates more than anyone else – a situation still fundamentally true today, incredible as it may seem for such a large organization. Like many created (and creative) organizations, the entity is a reflection of its founder. And whatever the founder’s title – call him CEO as he once was, or chairman, ro chief software architect, or whatever else you choose – if he’s around, he’s going to be The Dude. And in Gates’ case (and only partly because of his dominent stockholder position), no one is ever likely to push him out.

Apparently, though, he’s going anyway, saying at a news conference that two years from now, he’ll no longer be involved with the corporation on a daily basis. His attention, he said, will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley suggests that this may lead to a relaxation – in the sense of fresh air – at Redmond. That may be right. Certainly, Microsoft will much more become its own self in another couple of years.

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