Roles as a Leader
There are three major areas of activity that are commonly expected of leaders in organizations that Elon Musk has been able to demonstrate so far. Admittedly, all three areas are readily associated with fundamental characteristics of a leader and are thus ascribed to some degree to any person in such position. However, so far Musk has been able to establish a new bar of quality in each of them, which can be seen from the case study and confirmed by additional research. The first leadership area is the passion about the goal. While passion is usually a vague and intangible concept that is readily attributed to any emotional person, Musk was able to prove it on numerous occasions. Most prominently, his massive investment in the field of aerospace engineering, the profitability of which is yet to be established, remains the hard proof of his commitment to the cause. Similarly, the financial performance of Tesla as a company is secondary in importance to the idea of making people embrace the technology of electric-powered vehicles. Second, he apparently has a vision of his endeavor and can communicate it to the others. Both areas tackled by his companies are oriented at resolving the most apparent threats to humanity – energy crisis and global warming. While it their current state both enterprises are far from feasible solutions to their respective problems, the direction envisioned by Musk is radically different from the short-sighted approach common among other organizations. Third, his decisions are more often than not based on the desire to introduce an improvement that would benefit the humanity as a whole. The easiest example is the neglect towards patent filing. While one of the stated reasons is the reliance on speed, Musk has emphasized that the company will not commence legal actions against violations that use technology in good faith. The usage of company-developed battery technology was resolved in a similar fashion, which confirms Musk’s intention of working towards the greater good.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Reporting to Musk
As can be seen from the case, the main advantage of dealing directly with Elon Musk is the possibility to obtain vision and inspiration directly from the primary source. Apparently, Musk has an unparalleled capacity for empowering his colleagues and motivating them for completing the task. In addition, judging by the testimony of Tim Muller included in the case, a conversation with Musk can dramatically improve the clarity of technical aspects of the matter, which can probably be attributed to his technical proficiency as well as his famous attention to detail. As a result, Musk can be characterized as someone who is knowledgeable of the subject to the degree where he can be asked for advice while at the same time passionate enough to ensure commitment, thus securing the positive outcome.
On the other hand, Elon is apparently rather autocratic, which aligns poorly with the traits described above. Nevertheless, it is often reported by the people who worked with him that they are extremely dissatisfied with the experience, primarily due to the fact that Musk’s approach involves the demand for high performance. These statements are consistent with Steve Jurveson’s testimony regarding Musk’s lack of tolerance for underperforming members of the team. It is also easy to imagine that the obsession with the smallest details referred to above can pose a serious problem in combination with striving for excellence attributed to him. Therefore, the biggest disadvantage of reporting directly to Musk is the lack of tolerance for underperformance.
Based on the information I have been able to gather, Elon Musk is an exceptional leader from the society’s standpoint. However, his qualities as an organizational leader are somewhat questionable. To be more exact, the approach to leadership chosen by him does produce exceptional results and stimulates constant strive towards high quality but does so at the expense of a noticeable decrease in the autonomy of his workers. In most cases, the demand to reach a specific objective within a narrow time and resource limit would impair the freedom of choice for someone who reports to Musk. Admittedly, in this particular situation, it frequently yields the desired result. However, it is questionable whether the enterprise so apparently aimed at innovation can proceed relying on the energy and vision of one man. Simply put, the brilliance and knowledge of the leader, in this case, does not allow for diversification. However, as was mentioned above, such approach yields impressive social results. First, the achievements demonstrated by the company under his guidance have been praised by the media as exceptional in terms of organizational performance. In addition, the apparent orientation at the common good for humankind is a very appealing topic for the public perception. Second, many of his actions, such as the readiness to invest into unprofitable but important fields is an easily understandable and attractive concept that is readily embraced by the society. Finally, his evident emotional connection to the success of the company makes him an easy person to empathize with.
As was noted above, many of the traits exhibited by Musk make it easy to adore him from a distance. However, it would be unreasonable to deny at least partial influence of these factors on his employees despite the exhibited bluntness. In other words, it is hard to resist the urge to join in the pursuit of an appealing goal, especially after the interaction with someone who is committed to the issue, capable of resolving it, and has proven his capability on numerous occasions. It can also be argued that the high standards set by Musk create a high-risk high-reward environment where once the person is able to meet the expectations, he or she gets the recognition and praise of a powerful leader whose opinion is universally highly valued. In other words, complying with Elon Musk’s standards is a hard task, but once accomplished, it yields an equally satisfying outcome, which in itself can serve as a factor that helps people put up with the leader’s blunt approach.