Leadership Lessons from Elon Musk

Some leaders teach by example. For others, the inverse of their conduct reveals the true path. All have something to teach us. Here are a few points good leaders, and humans share in common. I’ve gleaned these gems over sixty years of leading and being lead, by the good, the bad and the ugly.

As we watch Elon Musk struggle with Twitter, and as each of us reevaluates our own relationships in these uncertain times, it may be helpful to revisit this list.

  • Know the business: Being a customer, even an investor, does not give you a sense for how it works, nor the insight to dictate a direction.
  • Creating a great organization is a group effort: Those closest to the customer have the greatest insights into the value proposition: And they often have the best ideas. Hear them out as you craft your game plan.
  • Lead as you would want to be lead: Matthew 25:40 – “…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.”
  • You can’t succeed without a supportive team: Edicts don’t drive results. Dedicated people do. Give them a clear definition of what success looks like. Provide the tools, the training and the atmosphere where they are able to succeed and will want to succeed. Always show your team what’s in it for them.
  • Words without actions mean nothing: Never ask anyone to do something you would not do yourself. Spend time where the work is done with the persons doing it. All lies eventually crumble. Truth finds a way.
  • Gently let go of people, processes and paradigms that no longer work for you: Innovate and improve the value proposition before you are forced to.
  • Past performance does not necessarily guarantee future excellence: You are entitled to nothing and must re-earn your position every day.
  • It all comes down to humanity: Few of us work for the sheer joy of the task. All productive effort takes us a step closer to our personal goals. Understand what motivates each individual team member. Invest in their dreams and they will invest in yours.
  • There will always be people around you who want you to fail: Don’t give them reasons to believe you will. Radiate humility, kindness and confident strength. Nothing is more inspiring to believers, nor more intimidating to enemies.
  • Know when to leave: Every assignment begins with an expiration date. Get out before someone else decides you have reached yours.

Consider the names who dominate the world stage today, the personalities who command our attention in the media, the people you choose to represent you at work and in the halls of government. How many reflect these values? If they don’t, perhaps they have reached their expiration date and need to be replaced.

Great role models walk the talk. How many of these traits do you practice?

Communities, teams and organizations begin to die when the members accept poor performance. “Gently let go of people, processes and paradigms that no longer work for you: Innovate and improve the value proposition before you are forced to.”