OK, let's face it: Since buying Twitter and abruptly laying off half his workforce without notice (some who have since sued Twitter), the brilliant but impulsive Elon Musk has not exactly been the poster boy for inspiring his employees.
But let's cut the tech billionaire some slack. Most of us will never face the kind of decisions that come with being the world's second wealthiest person (as of this writing)--while facing such incredible, mostly negative media scrutiny.
Call me a Musk sympathizer, but I'm giving him a break because I've seen (and written about) the bright spots that suggest, in his best form, he's a leader worth following. Every now and then Musk delivers positive advice that separates great leaders from the pack. Here are three examples:
1. Get rid of frequent meetings
Back in 2018, Elon sent Tesla employees a leaked email laying out a number of "productivity recommendations" that have since become a study in good management practices.
Elon went on to say, "Get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved."
That's good advice. Frequent and "excessive" meetings are a surefire way to disrupt the workflow and diminish productivity. If you must meet due to an urgent matter, use that time efficiently to collaborate and solve your urgent problem head-on. Once fires have been put out, communicate any follow-up items via email or Slack to avoid interrupting work.
2. Seek honest feedback
Want to become an exceptional leader? Go where the most courageous leaders are willing to venture. Seek honest feedback, even if the feedback is not what you want to hear.
Musk is no stranger to employing a feedback loop to fix problems and improve things. In a Mashable interview years ago, Musk dropped this memorable quote:
In trusted teams and positive work cultures, negative and constructive feedback will stretch both leaders and their workers to question whether something is working, so they can learn new things and consider other, better, options to complex business problems.
3. Change rules that no longer make sense
Companies that grow too big must employ rules and policies to keep things and people in line. This is to be expected and it makes sense. What doesn't make sense is when those same rules and policies become inefficient and no longer contribute to progress. In the 2018 leaked email, Musk advises his managers to always go with their common sense to guide their decisions, which is good advice for the rest of us:
Too often, we trudge along trying to innovate while still bowing to outdated rules, processes and bureaucratic commands from the ivory tower that hold back our creativity and productivity. There comes a time when every leader must face current reality and hold up the mirror to admit the obstacles that impede growth. As executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith wrote, "What got you here won't get you there."