21st Century Leadership: Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a live legend in the world of business. Industrialist, business and inventor, Musk managed to found a great business-empire that deservedly compels admiration. Apart from considerable financial status, the actual achievements of this young and ambitious multimillionaire include a number of successful Internet projects as well as such world-famous companies as SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and Hyperloop. Musk embodies a great example of transformational leader who is not afraid to be radical and inventory and has already reached the peak of the world of business. 

Elon Musk is commonly referred to as transformational leader. This style is defined as the one that can cause some changes in both individuals and companies. It is claimed that transformational leadership “creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders … enhances the motivation, morale and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms” (Damirch & Rahimi & Seyyedi). Musk certainly has all of that, and even more. First of all, he has a powerful and revolutionary vision and is able to influence others to share his view. According to the article entitled Elon Musk: Transformational leadership in Action, his vision is “attractive, simple, understandable, beneficial, and – quite literally – energy creating” (2015). It was recently proved by the appearance of his new company, Hyperloop, as the response to the high-speed railway challenge. Musk analyses the possible perspectives of his projects and precisely evaluates the risk and the benefits. Hence, his predictions play very important role in the life of his companies as they determine the priorities and directions to move on.


Elon as a leader is strongly confident person that operates with integrity and treats failures as feedbacks. He believed in own success so much that invested own millions in his companies and at some time even did not have enough money to pay the rent for the place where he lived (Vance, 2015). These actions prove Musk to be a trustworthy leader that remains reliable even in unpredictable situations. When the company faced some difficulties, he did not give up on it, but put at stake practically all financial backup that he had. Suchlike devotion to the business and persistence on the way of achieving new goals inspire all employees and made Musk the leader that is followed not just by his fellow-workers but also by all ambitious people around the world.

One of the most prosperous companies leaded by Elon Musk is Tesla Motors. Founded in 2003, this company was the first to produce high-quality and fully-electric cars on the world’s market.  The company preserves wide-spread vertical organizational structure, that presupposes the presence of the ruling clique, directors and managers leading different departments and factory personnel. However, after Musk taking over the duties of the CEO, the company’s organizational mechanism has been modified to be as much innovative as its leader himself. Tesla preserves the principle of close communications between departments that is more typical of smaller companies. The structural elements of it’s working mechanism include the following departments: Vehicle Engineering, Manufacturing, Design, Sales and Service and Business Department. As the company’s manufacturing is limited to certain type of products, employees of all these departments share single working environment and together work on the improvements in development and production. Suchlike encouraging knowledge sharing definitely enhances the workplace productivity. 

Musk paid great attention to the selection of personnel. He was looking for some outstanding personalities that would not be afraid to be as inventory and daring as he himself was. The book about Musk indicates the following attitude towards the candidates in the selection of the personnel: “Either you’re trying to make something spectacular with no compromises or you’re not. And if you’re not, Musk considers you a failure” (Vance, 2015). It may seem quite harsh, but this principle allowed Tesla to gather many talented and outstanding employees.

The increase in productivity is also ensured by the leader’s vision of the perspectives and gradual planning of the future. Musk does not see the creation of electric sports cars as main product of the company. These cars are very expensive and restrict the range of possible customers. Musk sets and encourages his employees do not be afraid of setting long-termed goals and reaching them. On the official web site of Tesla Motors there was published Elon’s view on the future of his company. Musk reveals the secret plan concerning future development of the company. He suggests the involvement of the financial income from selling the sports cars into the lowering of the cost of details that will be used in the next models. As a result, these cars will become more affordable, and the received money may be used to “build even more affordable cars” (Musk, 2006). It is obvious that Musk is interested not in the accumulation of the financial capital but in making money work for the future development of the company. He is drown by ideas and inspires his employees to become the same.

In fact, inspiration and raise of inner motivation are the key points in the success of Musk’s leadership strategies. At the beginning of Tesla’s development, the company had faced many difficulties in manufacturing as well as in breaking into the market. In company’s hard times Musk evinced great devotion and deployment of himself that actually inspired all him employees. In biographical book about Tesla’s leader, Vance describes him as a person who was very demanding concerning himself. He states that there were times when Musk had to work 100 hours per week in order to enhance productivity (Vance, 2015). Moreover, he was constantly working on personal development. Previously indicated source states that Musk has always been engaged in reading either fictional or scientific literature and promoted this activity among the workers of his company.

However, the fundament of the prosperous development was laid by the employment of the leadership style based on particular ethical values and moral standards. First of them was the standard of equality. Tesla’s CEO had not ever placed himself above other employees and was often engaged in some instant projects with his team.  His actions in the times when the company was on a tight budget serve as a good evidence of this. For example, in order to ensure financial support from the sponsores, Musk spend 4 weeks “on the ground, trying to fit his electric motor into a Smart car” (Jacoby, 2011). Secondly, Tesla’s leader embodied the standards of openness and permanent support. Musk often supported his employees with great motivating speeches grounded on real calculations of possible success. Moreover, he provided personal support of his employees. His colleagues remember him as the person whom they could send emails and get responses in five minutes, even at nighttime (Vance, 2015). Being a man obsessed with his job, Musk promoted full immersion into the things that you do and desire for getting more. This is how he expressed one of the milestones of his working ethics: “If other people are putting in 40 hours in a week, and you’re putting in 100, you will achieve in four months, what it takes them a year to achieve” (Musk, 2014).

Success of Tesla Motors was determined not only by inner factors but also by outer gain of customers’ loyalty. Company itself had conducted numerous meetings where there were exposed main principles and benefits of electric cars (Vance, 2015). Establishment of the dialogue between company and the representatives of the potential market audience increases the level of trust to the manufactured products. In fact, customers were actually charmed by Musk’s enthusiasm and despite of certain delays did not require the return of the money that were pre-paid. The loyalty of Tesla’s customers became apparent in tens millions of income that allowed the company to gain the glory of the most successful American automobile company for the last hundred years.

Having analyzed the leadership style of Tesla’s CEO, it is possible to indicate several practices that may be adopted from Musk by other companies in order to increase the level of their motivation. First of all, true leader should “dream big”. Great success is possible only when the directors set great goals. Secondly, it is important to be enthusiastic, self-confident and devoted enough to put own intentions into effects. Musk serves as a good example of a leader who literally lives in what he does. He does not spare money, efforts or personal time on the achievement of his goals because he deeply believes in his business. Suchlike behavior inspires employees of the company and motivates them to work better. Moreover, it even inspires the customers and gains their loyalty. Where does he get such strong confidence? It comes from another very important trait of a good leader, namely articulation of powerful vision. It is necessary to be able to analyze the present state of the business, the situation on the world market and economy and synthesize predictions of possible ways of development. Practice of vision the perspectives determines the direction where to move on and enhances productivity.

To conclude, Elon Musk is one of the greatest leaders who have impressed the world not only with their revolutionary ideas, but also with personal devotion and self-confidence. Being a conscious team-builder, challenging and far-seeing CEO, Musk created numerous companies that reached success in quite short period of time. He may serve as the source of inspiration for people who are striving for more but are afraid of own ideas all over the world. 

May 14, 2019 in Research
Human Resource Development
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