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English to Burmese: Role Model for CEOs General field: Other Detailed field: Business/Commerce (general)
Source text - English Elon Musk as a Role Model for CEOs:
Lessons to be Learned from a Transformational Innovator
“I’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact.” – Elon Musk
As a successful businessman and unique innovator, Elon Musk has already earned a place in the annals of contemporary business history. With a USD $28,000 loan from his father, Musk co-founded a web software company (Zip2) which was later acquired by Compaq. He took his proceeds from the sale to then create X.com which was subsequently purchased by PayPal. At this point, Musk could have purchased a small island and retired quite comfortably as a rich, young man. Instead, he invested his wealth into developing a series of businesses: SpaceX (2002), a space transport services company focused, in part, on establishing future human colonies on the moon and on Mars; Tesla Inc. (2003), a manufacturer of electric cars; SolarCity (2006), a solar energy services business; OpenAI (2015), a nonprofit created to promote safe artificial intelligence; Neuralink (2016), a company focused on creating brain-computer interfaces, and; The Boring Company (2016), a business that develops transportation infrastructure.
After dropping out of Stanford University to pursue his entrepreneurial career in 1995, Musk went from a small loan to obtaining a net worth of approximately USD $20 billion in less than 25 years, making him the 53rd richest person in the world. How did he accomplish such a feat? The answers lay in his career journey, with lessons that would benefit all business leaders as well as those aspiring for similar leadership roles in the future.
Lesson 1: Create a long-term vision for yourself
As a child, Musk read books about great figures, including those who excelled in scientific innovation. He became determined to be a great technological innovator himself but understood the limitations of achieving that goal in his surroundings. Therefore, he left his native South Africa to eventually relocate in the United States via Canada. In the U.S., Musk found opportunity recognition – the solution of a problem by creating a business. He did so by asking himself what were humanity’s greatest problems? He saw three challenges: the need to create a unifying, user-friendly internet for commerce (later expanded to assuring safe and reliable artificial intelligence), the need to move away from the dependency on fossil fuels by applying clean and renewable energy with electrical vehicles and, finally, the need to offer a long-term possibly against human extinction by exploring space and establishing human colonies.
This was his vision with its own metrics for success and failure. It was and continues to be his driving force and source of motivation. However, Musk was able to communicate the importance of achieving his visionary goals and has inspired others to follow him through his consistent displays of dedication, hard work, confidence, and perseverance.
Lesson 2: Develop exemplary leadership
Musk pushed to develop a market for the electric car when gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles (SUV) were in vogue and at a time when there did not exist in the United States an infrastructure system for electrically charging such vehicles. Yet, employers and financiers followed him because of the inspirational motivation he provided. When Tesla faced bankruptcy due to the economic downturn resulting from the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008, Musk stepped in and provided his own funds and kept the automotive company going. In fact, between 2004 and 2008, Musk would invest over USD $66 million of his own money into Tesla. He led by example, working tireless and often slept at his car factory. By 2010, he was ready to present an initial public opening (IPO) of company ownership that generated USD $226 million for Tesla.
SpaceX suffered a serious setback when its first three rocket launches were failures. The company’s budget had only been for three rocket trials. Undaunted, addressed his employees and stated “I will never give up, and I mean never.” He found funds for a fourth rocket (built in six weeks) and its launch witnessed the first privately built rocket to achieve orbit around the Earth.
Beyond inspirational, Musk’s leadership can be seen as transformational since it is a combination of idealized influence and intellectual stimulation with an added focus of individualized consideration wherein the leader acts as a mentor and coach while attending to the needs of each of his followers. A true transformational business leader focuses on the promotion of the common good of a company and its employees while a false leader pretends to do so to enhance his own benefit and financial gain at the expense of the group. Musk achieved a new standard for transformational leadership that is now studied in business schools.
Lesson 3: Continuous development and personal growth
Continuous development is both at the individual level and at the company level. Musk, a voracious reader, read everything he could about the development of an electric car as well as building an effective and efficient rocket after he visited Russia, subsequent to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and discovered the exorbitant spending costs to build the ballistic missiles they had for potential sale. He also hired experts in these areas from around the world and then listened to their counsel. Musk learned all the details involved in his businesses, believing that no task was too menial for him to become familiar. Finally, Musk has always been quick to learn from his trials and errors, successes and failures.
For Musk, a good CEO must be open to all ideas and not be afraid of changing if new information assists in adapting to new situations. He pushed his employees to be creative and innovative – to move away from traditional ways – stating that, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
When Musk was asked to name a role model, he named Thomas Alva Edison and not the Serbian inventor, Nikola Tesla for whom Musk’s car company was named after (since Tesla had invented the electric motor driven by alternating current). During his life, Tesla filed over 700 patents from wireless communication to fluorescent lighting but died in poverty after failing to bring his inventions to the market and to make them accessible. This is in contrast to Edison and also Benjamin Franklin (inventor and businessman) who Musk also cited as a role model. For Musk, success has never been measured just by the achievement technological innovation but by its commercial application through a profitable company. Recently, he stated that the Tesla car company would be worth up to USD$ 700 billion by the year 2026.
Lesson 4: Create a collaborative team
Musk established a history of being quick to fire those who did not possess a passion for working in his businesses. Unhappy people are like cancer cells that then metastasize within the body of the company, consequentially lowering the quality and quantity of production. Musk stated, “Talent is extremely important. It’s like a sports team. The team that has the best individual player will often win but then there’s a multiplier from how those players work together and the strategy they employ.” The key is to hire with care by placing the right personnel in their proper roles and then establishing high standards followed by meaningful rewards. Musk has been criticized for being too much of a micromanager. However, his companies have been pioneering efforts and within that context it is difficult to understand why a founder would not engage in micromanagement as new processes and procedures are set in place and then refined. For Musk this involved even having the final say as to the seat designs and transmissions of his cars.
Lesson 5: Establish a personal brand of integrity
Recently, when challenged by the short-term concerns of hedge fund managers and day traders who complained that Tesla was not generating a profit and that its stock was too volatile, Musk simply replied that these types of investors should not buy shares of his car company, an extraordinary and, perhaps, unique statement from a CEO. However, this action did not have any long-term effect on Tesla stock and, eventually, it actually rose. This is because part of the Musk mystique is his blunt honesty.
In 2012, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney debated President Obama at a nationally televised event, he criticized the Obama administration who providing Tesla with a USD $465 million loan to develop a clean energy alternative by way of Tesla’s electric car. During the debate, Romney referred to Tesla as a “loser” and implied that Musk would never repay the load. Romney was the loser in that election. However, Musk did, indeed, repay the loan, nine years ahead of schedule and with an additional USD $20 million in interest to the government.
Throughout his journey in the business world, Musk created and has maintained a personal brand of honesty and transparency. This is why his followers and investors have stuck with him through periods of economic instability and bottom lines of income statements that ended in red. Musk strives for long-term profitability even as his companies currently benefit his investors by way of steady appreciation in stock values. However, he has been consistently honest that his vision is evolutionary. Musk confessed that, “Most people, when they make a lot of money don’t want to risk it. For me, it was never about money but solving problems for the future of humanity.” This honesty has attracted those who are also long-term oriented and who follow Musk’s prediction that in less than thirty years, the majority of cars manufactured in the U.S. will be fully electric and that by 2040 a human colony will have been established on Mars.
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