Elon Musk’s 3 best pieces of advice for how to be a great leader

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX
Photo by Kevork Djansezian

Elon Musk is working to spearhead the global transition to electric vehicles and solar power. He's also trying to make living on Mars a reality. On top of that, his employees love him, according to Glassdoor's latest ranking of employees' favorite CEOs.

That's leadership.

A technician working at SpaceX gushed in a recently posted review on jobs-website Glassdoor about the billionaire tech icon.

"I absolutely LOVE working at Space X. It will be almost 4 years as a Full Time Space X'er and I am living the dream of building Space Rockets. The free perks, full benefits, Space X clothing, drinks, food, stocks and everything else that Uncle Elon gives us is truly amazing, astonishing, unbelievable, mesmerizing and no words can truly explain what's it like to be part of the Space X and what we do. Thank you very much from the bottom of my Heart, Mr. Elon Musk."

Though SpaceX recently finalized the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by employees claiming unfair compensation, clearly many of those who work for him are big fans.

So how does he do it?

Leaders are also expected to work harder than those who report to them and always make sure that their needs are taken care of before yours.
Elon Musk
CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

Musk lays out his advice for new leaders in an interview with the jobs website Glassdoor in connection with the ranking of employees' favorite CEOs. Musk came in eighth place with a 98 percent approval rating. The average CEO approval rating is only 67 percent, according to Glassdoor. (The ranking is based on voluntary, anonymous submissions on the site.)

Here are Musk's three top tips for new leaders:

1. Hire people who are smarter than you

"Hire great people…this is 90 percent of the solution, as hiring wrong can cost you so much," says Musk.

"We challenge our people leaders to hire people that are better than themselves, therefore making the company better with each hire."

2. Do not go with the flow

"Other advice I would give is to not blindly follow trends. Question and challenge the status quo," says Musk.

In his efforts to colonize Mars, Musk clearly is not concerned with the status quo. He says that eventually, others will begin to believe in his vision. "As we show that this is possible and that this dream is real — it is not just a dream, it is something that can be made real — the support will snowball over time," in an article published in academic journal New Space recently.

3. Focus on your foundation first

"Make sure you understand the fundamental principles of what you're trying to do before you get into the details," he says.

"Otherwise you could be building on faulty ground."

Ultimately, as a leader your job is to make it possible for your employees to do their best work.

"We want our leaders to find ways of motivating and inspiring their teams, reduce the noise in their work and help remove blockers. If you are a manager or leading at any level at SpaceX, we stress that your team is not there to serve you. You are there to serve your team and help them do the best possible job for the company," says Musk.

"This applies to me most of all. Leaders are also expected to work harder than those who report to them and always make sure that their needs are taken care of before yours, thus leading by example."

See also:

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The e-mail, workout and sleep habits of highly successful billionaire Mark Cuban

What it's like being an intern at Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX

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