Leadership

Mark Cuban's advice to Elon Musk: Be yourself

Mark Cuban
Steve Jennings | TechCrunch | Getty Images
Mark Cuban

Billionaire Mark Cuban offered some simple advice recently to Elon Musk: "Be yourself."

That advice might be surprising given Musk's headline-making behavior in recent months, actions some have called "erratic." But Cuban's simple words remind anyone what sets true innovators apart from traditional businesspeople — and what they need to do to succeed.

2018 has been a tough year for Musk. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has described the past year as "excruciating" and admitted to sleeping at the office to meet production deadlines. Some claims he made on social media have raised eyebrows and even led to allegations of fraud from the SEC. (Musk did not admit or deny any wrongdoing and that case was settled earlier this month).

Musk's actions have had their share of critics. That said, many still admire the founder for his ability to take big risks. This admiration prompted Cuban and about a dozen other writers, editors and entrepreneurs to share their support for Musk in a recent Popular Mechanics article.

While some of his supporters in the article admired Musk's dedication to companies such as SpaceX during the financial crisis or simply wanted a chance to one day see Mars, Cuban focused on Musk's rare role in business.

Cuban likened Musk to personal computing pioneer Alan Kay who once said: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

An inventor's vision — combined with passion — sets entrepreneurs apart from other leaders. "When you invest in a company run by an entrepreneur like Elon, you are investing in the mindset and approach that an entrepreneur brings to the table as much as you are valuing the net present value of future cash flows," said Cuban.

True innovators put their mission first, Cuban has previously explained, and it's that commitment to a mission that will drive an entrepreneur's company to new heights. "That's the nature of great companies. [Top innovators and entrepreneurs] don't cash out like me. They stay there because they're committed and dedicated," he said.

"While others talk about what someone else might create, Musk goes out and does it," wrote Cuban in the Popular Mechanics article. "That is not typical for public companies that are overwhelmingly run by hired CEOs."

Cuban said this summer he does not know Musk "at all" or own stock in his companies, though he does own two Tesla cars.

Musk cannot allow himself to be distracted by critics, Cuban said. The investor has offered this advice to Musk before, as recently as this past August on CNBC's "Halftime Report."

"When it's your baby, a lot of times it's hard not to take all that personally," Cuban said. While this habit is natural, it's not always productive. "He has to learn not to respond."

Seeing that vision through is the unique duty and responsibility of any entrepreneur and innovator. Said Cuban, "My advice for Elon is simple: Be yourself. Be true to your mission. Respect your investors. Ignore your critics."

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