As controversial as he is successful, Elon Musk undoubtedly stands out as one of the most innovative—and infamous—visionaries of our time. The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, who also has The Boring Company, Neuralink, and X.com (basically the first iteration of PayPal) under his belt, may have gained widespread fame due to his public persona, trigger-happy Twitter finger, and a notorious podcast appearance or two, but the serial entrepreneur and engineer owes his success, first and foremost, to his unique approach to leadership. After all, one can’t make billions of dollars without a dedicated team - and Musk has proven that he knows how to build one.
Elon Musk joins the ranks of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos for many when considering the 21st century’s most influential CEOs, and like the respective founders of Apple and Amazon, is often cited as having a “transformational leadership” style. The concept is a part of the Full Range Leadership Model, a theory of three distinct leadership styles that vary in accordance with one’s engagement with the people they lead. Unlike those who embrace “laissez-faire” or “transactional” styles, a transformational leader is marked by their ability to inspire, motivate, and work closely with their teams to produce extraordinary results. Some managers hire people to complete boring tasks. Transformational leaders surround themselves with people who want to change the world.
Of course, working with a genius who has grand plans and high expectations isn’t always easy. One former employee at Tesla was quoted in Fast Company as saying both, “It was incredible,” and “I’d never work there again.” Another person who worked under Musk, this time at SpaceX, said of the founder, “We were in the presence of brilliance” and, “It scared me.”
Clearly, “complicated” comes with the territory of a confident and charismatic innovator. But no matter the conflicting opinions of Musk held by both his employees and the public, no one can deny that he is helping to shape the future, one project at a time. From tackling problems head-on and embracing failure to forgoing meetings whenever possible, here are the strategies Musk is known to apply on the daily at all of his companies.