We the Partnership

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on why strong partnerships matter

By Lia Collen | October 16, 2020

At the 19th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals awards program on Oct. 5, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discussed the importance of public-private partnerships and effective leadership, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“What I’ve come to realize is it takes all of us — civic society, the government and the civil service, the people who build the institutions our democracies depend on, as well as private organizations. We all need each other,” Nadella said. A critical part of Microsoft’s mission is to help government use new technology to respond to crises and innovate on behalf of the people in this country, he added.

This year, the Partnership awarded Nadella the Spirit of Service medal for fostering Microsoft’s spirit of innovation, leveraging technology to improve cross-sector partnerships, and committing the company to racial justice and environmental stewardship.

During the event, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker spoke with Nadella about his leadership style and an important lesson he learned over the course of his career.

“It’s not about what you achieved during your tenure; it’s about the strength that you’ve built during your tenure that makes the institution thrive even more after you leave it,” Nadella said. “That’s how I look at my own work at Microsoft. I know every civil servant who comes in and pushes their own institution forward is trying to do the same, and that’s what inspires me.”

Walker also praised Nadella for his compassion and empathy as a leader, citing his response to the George Floyd murder.

“I think that it is very hard to lead during times like this. We need leaders who unite us, who help heal the wounds and help us ford a positive future, and that is the kind of leader you are, Satya,” Walker said. “That’s why you have been so successful and why you are so admired.”

In closing, Nadella reiterated the importance of working collectively to build a better future for our country.

“It’s about all of us, not any one of us,” he said. “The more we recognize that, the more we build strength in our communities, in our institutions and in our democracy to recognize that fundamental greatness of the United States, I think we will all be better off.”

Watch the full conversation between Nadella and Walker, and read Nadella’s Sammies profile or highlights from the Sammies event in our recent blog post, “Inspiring stories from this year’s Service to America Medal awards.”


Lia Collen