In a blog post, Bill Gates announced that his father, William Gates Sr., had passed away over the weekend.
The post is a heartfelt note from a son about his dad, and it’s clear that their relationship played an important role in shaping the Microsoft founder into a billionaire.
Bill Gates has done quite a bit in his lifetime, and he credits much of it to the support and character of his parents — and his father, in particular.
In that light, it’s worth considering the importance of that relationship, in terms of the lesson it gives us all about not just parenting but leadership.
There are quite a few valuable insights in Gates’ post, but these three points are pivotal.
1. Unconditional Love:
“My sisters, Kristi and Libby, and I are very lucky to have been raised by our mom and dad.
“They gave us constant encouragement and were always patient with us. I knew their love and support were unconditional, even when we clashed in my teenage years.
“I am sure that’s one of the reasons why I felt comfortable taking some big risks when I was young, like leaving college to start Microsoft with Paul Allen. So, I knew they would be in my corner even if I failed,” Bill Gates wrote in his blog post.
There’s something powerful about that. It’s fine to try something and fail.
It’s hard to overstate how important that is, especially for an entrepreneur. Think about how the world would be different had the Microsoft founder not felt “comfortable taking some big risks.”
As a leader, whether that’s as a parent, or an entrepreneur, or a CEO, one of the greatest gifts you can give to the people over whom you have influence is the certainty that you will stand by them, even if they fail.
It creates a safe place to try out ideas, explore, and build interesting new things.
“Dad wrote me a letter on my 50th birthday,” the Microsoft founder went on to write, “It is one of my most prized possessions. In it, he encouraged me to stay curious.”
Encouraging people to be curious is powerful.
After all, without curiosity, you rarely discover anything of significance. That’s pretty rare in a world where we’re often only considered as valuable as our latest performance.
There’s one more nugget Gates gives about his dad, and it’s worth mentioning in closing.
Gates says, “He saw the best in everyone and made everyone feel special.”
That’s a superpower. To be able to leave people feeling as though they are important and valuable is something we should all hope to have said about us when we walk out of a room.
When you succeed, you get promoted. When you fail, you get shamed. The job, of every great leader is making sure no one in your sphere of influence ever feels shamed.