Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] just received an impressive vote of confidence from the next generation of up-and-coming business mavericks. As reported by Business Insider, "In a recent survey by VC firm First Round Capital, Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk was named the most admirable tech leader by 23% of the 700+ startup founders surveyed. That was well ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (10%) and Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg (6%)." Why did these hard-to-impress startup founders overwhelmingly choose Elon Musk? And, more importantly, what lessons can we learn from the Tesla boss in order to improve our own performance?
Above: Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Source: Know Startup*)
Know Startup* reports, "Elon Musk is now considered Earth’s most future-oriented person... best known for his role as CEO of electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors, and as co-founder of online money transfer system PayPal, and of commercial space program SpaceX. Andy Ottinger, Executive Vice President at Kotter International, explains: “Elon Musk is an inventor and builder wrapped into one, kind of like a combination of Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, on steroids.” Perhaps that's why he blew away his Silicon Valley contemporaries in the voting (see below). That said, let's dive into ten lessons from Elon Musk.
Above: Elon Musk voted most admired tech leader among U.S. startup founders (Source: Business Insider)
1. Articulate a powerful vision
Ordinary people have a vision that is evolutionary, while the greatest leaders have a vision that is revolutionary – they know how to leap forward, changing the game. Elon Musk’s response to the traffic problem is a high-speed railway known as Hyperloop, which would transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes, that is 800 miles per hour. His plan will take eight years to build at a cost of about $10 billion.
2. Ideas are only as good as their execution
An idea that is not executed well remains just an idea; an idea that is implemented exceptionally well can become a great business. Leaders today must be able to innovate and execute well. Today, the Hyperloop is just an idea. Given Musk’s other priorities it will be left (and has been offered) to others to execute.
3. World-changing innovation can come from anywhere
Musk’s Hyperloop idea is the by-product of having two companies with a vision, not just to produce cars or rockets, but to change the way we view transportation. Musk has offered it up to the public as an “open source” idea, amplifying the truism that leaders find ways to involve and enlist larger groups in solving problems.
4. Operate with integrity
Musk repaid all his ~$400 million taxpayer-supported loan ahead of schedule with interest and was gracious in his thanks. He remarked, “I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate.”
5. Build great products
Musk was in charge of the design of the award-winning electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, which sold in 31 countries, developing the product just after the financial crisis of 2008. And, his cars only got better, in 2012, Tesla launched the Tesla Model S which won an avalanche of awards and accolades. Those awards have continued with the Model X as well.
6. Have confidence
Many successful people believe in leveraging other people’s money to finance their projects, that way if they fail, they won't lose their personal wealth. On the other hand, Elon Musk has such unshakeable confidence in himself and his capabilities that he uses his own money to finance his projects. He's invested millions of his own funds into SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp), newly-acquired SolarCity, and Tesla Motors.
7. Disturb the comfortable
Musk has never been afraid to shake things up. He completely ignored everything we knew about car manufacturing and created something entirely different. From its inception, Tesla has disrupted the auto industry. Even the act of purchasing a Tesla is outside the box.
8. Know how to persevere
Musk believes that he can cut the cost of space travel and make a Mission to Mars a reality. From the outset of SpaceX, he's faced delays in design and testing, which pushed him a few years behind schedule. His original scheduled launch was a failure because the engine caught fire. The second test did not go as far into orbit as he expected. But he didn’t abandon his dreams, instead he learned lessons from his failures and made corrections along the way, until the SpaceX Falcon rocket had its first successful launch in June 2010.
9. Continuous learning is a priority
Effective leaders like Elon Musk are constantly generating ideas. As a serial entrepreneur, he has created several billion dollar companies based on his ideas, how does he do it? Musk is a voracious reader, who's able absorb information and put it quickly into action. This allows him to learn fast and think deeply.
10. Network and connect
As a college student, Musk cold-called interesting people that he would like to meet. One of those people was Peter Nicholson, a top executive at the Bank of Nova Scotia. This phone call led to a meeting with Nicholson and landed Musk a summer internship. Musk’s experience at the bank would eventually be the impetus for the digital payment service PayPal.
Want more? We've got another POV on Musk's winning formula with 10 lessons that differ quite a bit from the prior list. In any event, we think you'll benefit from checking out both lists — check out the video below...