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Elon Musk’s Leadership Style and Related Theories


Elon Musk is one of the most outstanding business leaders and a strategist in innovations for the last few decades. His career as a business leader is likely to excel in the future. Elon grew to understand that the most challenging aspect is to come up with the correct question. Following a careful reflection, Elon had decided that the right question to shape his future was, ‘what elements would impact greatly on humanity in their destiny’. Fessler (2019) asserted that Elon has developed many corporate firms successfully, with a focus on space and alternative energy. Eventually, he became the second entrepreneur founder of corporates with a market cap exceeding 1 billion dollars.

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One of the driving forces for Elon has been his strong passion for excellence. He has channeled all his energy as a schoolboy to fields relevant to his organizations to progress. Following the call to serve by PayPal, Elon had sufficient resources to live a successful life afterward (Renko, 2017). However, he decided to put all his resources into SpaceX, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. He had undertaken personal advances ranging to millions to maintain his endeavors in business. His budgetary options also impacted his ability to pay lease for an extended period. He always advocated his superior but uncommon entrepreneurial skills by claiming that whenever he decides to ask investors to engage, it makes him feel his moral obligation to invest as well. Such choices cannot be purely simple or aggregated into a simple perspective of ordinary scenes since there have been a series of disappointments in his entities (Lord et al., 2017). For instance, the SpaceX test often led to some form of disappointment from the news of dispatch.

Similarly, Tesla Motors remained unprofitable for more than a decade. Elon Musk had an unflinching belief in the long-term significance of the investments. Both the general public and investors garnered confidence while the general public stood with him due to his clear vision. Elon conceived that an extraordinary pioneer should possess a dream, which must not be only about understanding your current position but also conceptualizing one’s destiny. Besides, from his initial internet banking investment to his present place, pushing on space travels, self-driving cars, and clean energy investments, Musk demonstrates his unwavering capacity to focus on the future and conceive its potential. While the majority of industries have been realizing gradually the impact of global warming while others are ignoring it, Musk has made repeated trials to tackle progressive issues for more than a decade, with a significant profit margin. Within the context of an entrepreneurial society, it is easy to find it challenging to have such leaders and leadership qualities (Groysberg et al., 2018). The majority of leaders are reinforcing major concerns while maintaining a cheerful look at the investors. With Musk, he seeks to add quality to society while at the same time presenting a superior tomorrow to humanity.

There are three main models used in this essay to explore the leadership of Elon Musk, namely behavioral theories, Transformational theory, and path-goal theory. Behavioral theories are crucial in understanding the conduct of individual leaders. Behavioral theories that apply to Musk propose specific behaviors that differentiate him from non-leaders. For instance, leaders may have considered production-oriented and employee-oriented. These traits are accurately manifested in Musk’s leadership model. In the 21st century, there have been remarkable leaders, but none has been a phenomenon in their duties as Musk. Elon Must described his personal as an engineer with knacks for investments with a unique capacity for technology use. In this case, he has played a significant role as Chief Technology Officer at Tesla Inc., and SpaceX, among others. Besides, he has emerged as the leading developer and articulator of artificial technology as exemplified in his new venture in Open AI Inc. that is purely focused on the novel, AI venture (Early, 2017). In line with the behavioral model, Musk has been leading through examples while overseeing each engineering design, signature electric cars that have been uniquely preferred in the tourism and hospitality industry, and battery production.

Elon, however, has not associated himself with any singular leadership theory, but the Path-Goal theory may neatly define his leadership behaviors across different situations. For instance, in one of his emails that he was addressing his employees at Tesla concerning a report on increased injuries incidences at the Tesla plant, he expressed his emotional conceptualization of an injury on an individual claiming that damage must be reported with a view to developing appropriate safeguards and eventually helps the victim to resolve their situation. He expressed his concern and directed that each injury sustained should be addressed directly to him. In this case, Elon asked that he would wish to meet every victim to understand their perspective on the damage and perhaps help resolve the problem from the first point of view to improve the situation together (Abatecola et al., 2019, p.1 950). Musk also expressed is a concern to the point that he could go to the line of production to make the same tasks the employees do.

Through the impressive email that Musk sent to his employees, he demonstrated two main conceptual leadership styles provided by the Path-Goal theory as both participative and supportive leaders. Musk, initially utilize a supportive style of leadership through his connection with subordinates as well as their predicaments in the form of injuries as he states, he hurts their condition. He raises concern about the well-being of employees in his company. Besides, Musk also manifests a supportive leadership style of the Path-Goal Theory in his account, which presents his determination to make the employees work as safe as possible (Saint-Martin, 2019). These action points are crucial examples of his decision and a tie to the concept of supportive leadership that demands leaders attend to the well-being or needs of their subordinates to enhance the safety and general working conditions of the workers.

Musk also states that he would meet victims of injuries and understand from their perspective to enhance the working condition or safety. He would eventually perform similar tasks as the employees to strengthen his understanding of the employees’ point-of-view. This scenario indicates a clear shift to a participative leadership style, exemplified in his participation in the real tasks done by his employees. Under a participative leadership style, leaders involve subordinates in their decision-making process to tap into their input and opinions. Musk is presumably intuitive in his understanding of the valuable asset to his company as the employees, which means that nothing else is as essential as the safety and well-being of each worker. He understood the necessity for his company to realize the goal of developing a successful product and company. According to the Path-Goal Theory, leaders provide valued goal or reward sets and the best action point to reach such value or goals through the provision of the requisite emotional support along the process, which Musk has accomplished exemplarily (Shaw, 2020).

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The other model depicting Musk’s leadership is the transformation model of leadership. Over time, Musk expressed his conceptual goal for success through engagement in calculated risks that the majority would typically restrain from engaging. He confidently trusts his instincts and intuition and the advice offered by his assistants. Subsequently, Musk made informed decisions in his position of leadership and undertook individualized research that has facilitated his deeper conceptualization of situations before making final decisions of the best choice to take. In the above incidence of the high prevalence of injuries, the most evident communication attribute is that he always sought ideas from team members to avoid faulty decisions in adverse situations. In such an instance, he manifests an idealistic leadership trait that follows his dreams regardless of the perspective of his critics that offers conflicting ideals to their practicality.

As a transformational leader, Musk is also ranked as the most influential and innovative leader of the modern day due to his bold introduction of technological enhancements in the future. Besides, he is credited with being the most vocal proponent of sustainable or green energy use with a long-term determination to introduce the concept within the automobile industry. The move is exemplified by past models like Model 3, Model S, and Model X, among others that culminated in the introduction of electric cars (Lang et al., 2018). These achievements are widely attributed to his transformational leadership style.

As a transformational leader, Musk has demonstrated a clear vision of his company or ventures. His founding of the SpaceX program is an example of this move. While many critics expressed their doubts regarding his accomplishment bound to backfire, Musk listened patiently to his critics but could not accommodate doubt as a barrier to his resolve. In this case, he mastered his tension and fears and considered the advice of his best advisors with a resultant monumental gamble. In an ideal scenario when he desired to travel to outer space, he failed to secure a rocket from Russia, a situation that could have soiled his determination. However, he persistently compiled his ideals assisted by his team of experts to assemble a new rocket. His precision was marked by his clear budget and allocation of different resources towards his first rocket. He yielded to consensus and timely communication, which did offer not only a detailed budgetary requirement but also the realization of the successful SpaceX program. His effective verbal communication, coupled with visionary temperament yielded his success in the highly-competitive automotive industry (Hesseborn et al., 2019). His ideas were conceptualized within a framework of realistic vision aimed at benefiting both humanity and his investments.

Musk started by communicating his vision to his team of experts and allies. He wished to ensure that they developed some level of understanding of each detail that was contained in his projection since they were responsible for the implementation of the blueprint. Under this projection, it was important for Musk to ensure the well-being of his team as the basis for professional service delivery, and this focus further shaped his decision to enhance the welfare of his workers. The success of his company was also dependent on the tenacity within a series of obstacles and his solid belief in overcoming each. His central philosophy was anchored on the confrontation of challenges and subsequent introduction of long-term solutions to virtually all sectors. He also mastered the conceptual ideal of problem-solving on the ground. Musk portrayed stringent use of his wit, which eventually yielded close to zero conflicts in the workplace within his organization. In most instances, he encouraged players to adopt dialogue or compromises whenever faced with stalemates (Muegge et al., 2019). In a bid to further expand his philosophy, he was determined to develop shops for his products in regions that yielded to a high level of emerging problems, offer advice, while motivating his employees.

Courtesy of his boldness and presence, the engineers are part of the success of Musk’s projects and high acceptance from the consumers. In a particular account, Musk is credited with sleeping at Tesla whenever essential tasks are in progress to ensure his availability and access by his employees whenever the need arises in night shifts. This aspect provides him with the capacity to share and ideas and risks with his team, as an empowerment to the whole organization. At the hallmark of his transformational leadership style, Musk demonstrates high resilience and adaptability by ensuring that tasks have a clear delegation process. In the formative stage of Tesla Inc, Musk accommodated new ideas even in the middle of the process. This acquittal to new ideas during production allowed his workers to increase their trust and confidence in him as a dependable leader, with a sounding faith mechanism in the team (Renko, 2017). This strategy developed a ripe environment for excellence while fostering an organizational culture of ideas at every level of the ideal through the consistent involvement of his team in the decision-making process. However, other than sympathizing with the workers, the leaders should have also established critical infrastructure to mitigate injuries and restore the dignity of workers. For instance, the leader should have also established a corrective system that would form a stand-by reprieve for any injuries that occur in the future since injuries are bound to occur despite measures to minimize them.

Elon, however, outperforms his counterparts in other companies like Apple Inc. For instance, Apple Inc. has a history of negligence through the leadership of Steve Job. In 2011, Apple realized that some factories within her supply chain recorded very high suicide rates involving workers through jumps over windows during their shifts. However, Steve Jobs led Apple simply to ask the company’s management to erect nets outside windows to catch anticipated jumpers and return them to the production line. Contrary to Musk’s approach of empathy, this approach did not only express the leader’s concern for the plight of employees or a move to resolve the underlying problem. Another plight is expressed through the increasing 200 hours per month of overtime working for the workers that remained uncompensated in Apple’s workers’ front. The workers at Apple Inc. factories are also linked up with increased abuse since they are less protected from hazardous chemicals in the manufacture of electronic components. Musk was interested in understanding the plight of workers in a bid to resolve it. Steve Job also neglected workers in the Chengdu factory, China.

Personal Reflection

In this case, my leadership style may differ slightly from Musks. I have grown to believe that servant leadership is the most outstanding, and so do I adopt it in various settings. In my past encounters, I have been using servant leadership, which may be misconstrued with the transformation, supportive, and participative leadership. In this case, the event that culminated in the injuries on workers would have been dealt with rather differently. For instance, I would have opted to take some employees on leave as soon as they report injuries, while I participate in their roles directly or indirectly. Besides, I may not have wanted to experience the direct views of the employees but rather introduce blueprints and lead the team in its execution without a lot of consultation.

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Based on the perceived nature of my projects from external critics, this approach may have failed to yield the desired gains. For instance, it might have been difficult to develop the SpaceX program effectively with my elaborate involvement in both the development of the blueprint as well as the execution of the actual project. Musk acknowledged this shortcoming and the power of efficient delegation, which led to his introduction of projects to his engineers guided by a team of experts and aides to provide the timeliest and useful problem-solving outcome. As a servant leader, it might have been disappointing to engage in a highly criticized project of the SpaceX program since my direct involvement would have denied more crucial contributions and emotional support to my team. I consider the blend between transformational, participative, and supportive approach taken by Musk was the best for the projects and processes are undertaken in his company.


Finally, Musk is one of the distinct transformational leaders at the core of innovation across multiple industries. His influence and leadership have been felt beyond his immediate automobile and energy industry. He is not only determined but also a visionary temperament leader with a high level of adaptability. Positive verbal communication inspires his diligence and excellence in the industry and the business world. These values have provided for his capacity to assemble one of the most excellent companies recognized by humanity, Tesla Inc. He acknowledges the essence of communication for any firm as the primary determinant of success in the future.


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