How to lead like Elon Musk

The Tesla and SpaceX founder is a fan of failure - and focus.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 21 Mar 2017
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SMEs

The boss of SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity is a tough role model. But if you really want to make like Musk, here's a start:

Have a crazy vision, and mean it.

This is probably the most important part of the Musk mystique, and also the hardest for us mere mortals to emulate. His belief that he can change the world is what followers love most - he has complete faith in a future made better by self-driving cars, universal solar power and cheap space travel.

Work hard, really hard.

The prosaic flipside to all that vision stuff. Never mind those beguiling authors telling you that you can have it all and still go home early on Fridays.

The Elon Musks of this world work 100-hour weeks as a matter of course. Why? Because 'That way you'll achieve in four months what it takes someone working 40 hours a week a year to do.' We did warn this wasn't going to be easy.

Encourage mistakes.

One of his favourite mantras is 'Make failure an option'. If you don't fail regularly you're not being innovative enough. Create an environment where it is OK to screw up.

Seek out criticism.

Musk is famous for being more interested in what he's got wrong than what he's got right. So even when something has gone well, ask people what you could have done better.

Focus, focus, focus.

Deciding what not to do is as vital as deciding what to do, and Musk has a killer question to help with this: 'Always ask, will this activity result in a better product? If not, cease those efforts.'

Believe in a bigger pie.

Musk realises success is not a zero sum game. Why else give away all those hard-won Tesla patents? For you to do well, others must also prosper - so bring your industry with you.

Image credit: On Innovation/Flickr

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