Chief executive

Use humility as a weapon.

By David Kirkpatrick, Fortune senior editor

(Fortune Magazine) -- Hector Ruiz, CEO, AMD

Since Hector Ruiz took over as AMD's (Charts) CEO in April 2002 the microprocessor-maker has increased its market share and is now spoken of in the same breath as Intel, which is about six times larger. The unpretentious Ruiz would be the last one to call himself "great," and in that may lie his true greatness. Humility is one of his most powerful tools. Three more:

- Working at warp speed. We have gotten larger and more complex. By definition that means we're going to make some mistakes. I'm much more comfortable in an environment when I know that's going to happen. That means we're learning. An aura of confidence begins to develop around people who can make mistakes and learn and go forward. At employee meetings I say, "Please, go get speeding tickets. I don't want you to get parking tickets."

- Embrace ambiguity. Part of my job is to make people comfortable with change and ambiguity. That sounds counterintuitive. A lot of people think CEOs have to be absolutely crisp and perfect on what they want. Quite often my people push back. I don't like spelling out exactly what people need to do. I think that boxes them in.

- Think more. Sometimes I just pick up the phone and call someone who is going to make me think. This week I called [an Internet executive] and talked to him about some of his ideas. I need to understand people like him who are thinking differently about the future, because I can easily get to thinking that the next PC just needs to be a little faster or a little cheaper, and miss the whole thing.  Top of page