Elon Musk’s Management Style is Definitely Direct

Posted on June 13, 2022 by Zachary Visconti

Nailing down the management style of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is no easy task, especially with how far it strays from traditional approaches. Clearly, Musk’s desire for the free flow of information and direct communication in the company is essential — and holding to old wave practices like the chain of command, Musk says, slows down the entire process. 

Above: Elon Musk with J.D. Straubel and Drew Baglino. Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons

Musk’s management style can be described as direct, for one, and opposed to the chain of command, with him even issuing a warning against the practice to some employees in 2018, as detailed in a report from Inc.com. Importantly, Musk believes information should travel in any direction and across levels, no matter what your title, rank or position.

Musk has even gone so far as to say that those that enforce the chain of command will “find themself working elsewhere,” emphasizing how seriously he takes the issue.

“Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command.’ Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themself working elsewhere,” said Musk in the 2018 email to employees.

The reasoning behind the non-traditional approach largely comes back to one thing — the time it takes for information to travel normally across levels of a company. Ultimately, the direct approach, as Musk explains in the email, is the most efficient and productive.

Above: Musk wants workers back in the office. YouTube: Forbes

"If, in order to get something done between departments, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be OK for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen," Musk added.

As a bonus, this approach also lets employees across departments have autonomy in the work place, which benefits personal motivation. It also gives those on the front line of a problem the right to speak out when problems need to be addressed immediately, in order to improve production workflow.

Musk's emphasis on direct communication also includes the physical geography (and proximity) of his team. “Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week,” Musk recently wrote in a staff email, obtained by Electrek. “Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

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Source: Inc.comForbes / Electrek

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