Nadella versus Ballmer as CEO: Microsoft employees say it's Nadella by a mile

How well is Satya Nadella doing as Microsoft's CEO compared to Steve Ballmer? If you ask Microsoft employees, they'll tell you it's Nadella by a mile, according to the career site Glassdoor. Are the employees on-target, or is it hero worship and wishful thinking?

On Glassdoor, Nadella currently has an 85% favorability rating from Microsoft employees. That's far above Ballmer's ratings in recent years. For 2013-2014, he was rated at a lowly 39% by Microsoft employees, down from 47% the previous year.

Glassdoor annually ranks the top 50 CEOs as rated by their employees, and with those numbers, Ballmer typically doesn't make the list. Nadella's 85% ranking would have put him on it, tied for 34th place, just below Jeff Bezos's 86% approval rating.

Nadella's standing among Microsoft employees isn't wishful thinking -- he's done a great job since he's ascended to CEO. I'd give him straight A's so far (and in fact, did in my column about it). Instead of accepting the status quo, he's shaken up Microsoft and headed it in new directions. He's allowed Nokia to release Android phones, released Office for the iPad, is letting Microsoft give away Windows for free to makers of devices under nine inches, and done more as well. True, a number of those actions may have been under consideration before his time as CEO, but they were still his decisions to make once he took over.

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer contacted a well-known leadership expert, and he agrees. Randy Ottinger, an executive vice president with Kotter International, which specializes in leadership change and corporate strategy-setting, had this to say:

"I'd give him very high marks, an A or A-, for his first 100 days."

Ottinger cited Nadella's shaking up Microsoft leadership, sharpening Microsoft's direction by doing things such as releasing Office for the iPad, and imparting a sense of urgency to company employees.

So in this instance, Microsoft employees are right in their ranking -- Nadella deserves at a minimum 85%, and I think even better, and that easily bests former CEO Steve Ballmer.

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