Power Players

Bill Gates says this is the Steve Jobs trait he envied the most

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
Tony Avelar | AFP | Getty Images

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two of the most high-profile tech titans of the past century, and they also had a famously fierce rivalry that evolved into a friendship based on mutual respect until Jobs passed away in 2011.

Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and the world's second-wealthiest person, has praised the Apple co-founder in the past for Jobs' leadership qualities and his uncanny ability to motivate his employees. But, there is one specific trait of Jobs' that Gates is still particularly envious of, Gates says in a new interview with The Wall Street Journal.

The former Microsoft CEO talks about how he's had to work hard to become a better public speaker throughout his career and admits that public speaking was one area where Jobs easily had him beat, according to the interview, published on Tuesday to promote the new Netflix documentary on Gates' life and career that premieres on Sept. 20.

"Steve Jobs was always more of a natural at that," Gates tells WSJ about Jobs' public speaking abilities, which Gates says allowed Jobs to sell people on any product, even a subpar one. "He could talk about what, in the case of NeXT Computer [his follow-up after being ousted from Apple], was not that good of a machine, yet mesmerize people to death if they happened to be in the auditorium."

Gates goes on to say that he wishes he could emulate his former friend and rival in that regard, especially with respect to raising awareness for various philanthropic causes that Gates and his wife, Melinda, champion through their non-profit foundation.

"I wish I could be as magical because I have causes that are in some ways more impactful and I need to make sure they don't get ignored," Gates says in the interview, referring to the work the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does to address global issues, from disease prevention research to fighting poverty.

Ex-Apple engineer reveals what it was like to pitch Steve Jobs
Ex-Apple engineer reveals what it was like to pitch Steve Jobs

Gates notes that "some things, like eradicating polio, are inherently inspiring," but he still believes that Jobs' ability to sell any product or idea would come in handy, even though Gates has worked to improve his public speaking over the years. (At least one billionaire CEO, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, credits a Bill Gates public speaking engagement from the 1990s for inspiring him to start an internet business.)

"I myself am not a preacher," he says. "I've learned a little bit about public speaking, and how to articulate how to solve these problems over time. I've gotten OK on that in a certain sense."

For what it's worth, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world's largest private philanthropic foundations, with an endowment of more than $50 billion. And, Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, have also convinced hundreds of wealthy people to donate billions of dollars of their wealth to charity as part of their Giving Pledge campaign.

This isn't the first time that Gates has praised Jobs' ability to get people on board with his particular vision. Jobs had a way of "casting spells" to motivate his employees, Gates told CNN in a July interview.

"I was like a minor wizard because he would be casting spells, and I would see people mesmerized, but because I'm a minor wizard, the spells don't work on me," Gates said.

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Watch 33-year old Bill Gates explain his hiring process, why he moved Microsoft to the Seattle area
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