The story of Iron man and Elon Musk starts when Robert Downey Jr. visited SpaceX headquarters miles away from the setting of the first Iron Man movie back in 2007. The actor was inspired to base his character on Elon Musk’s personality. Ashlee Vance writes in Elon’s biography “both Musk and Stark were the type of men, according to Downey, who ‘had seized an idea to live by and something to dedicate themselves to’ and were not going to waste a moment.”
What blew Robert Downey Jr.’s mind about Elon Musk are the characteristics that make him an extraordinary business man. Follow along if you’re interested to know these characteristics and how they would affect your business.
Here are four things Musk would probably do if he were to run your business:
1. He would be more approachable
No matter how important and larger-than-life he gets, Elon Musk would still be approachable as a friend you’ve known for ages. For one thing, when one of his Twitter followers asked him whether he is bipolar, he responded “yeah” and then explained “Maybe not medically tho”, a level of humbleness you wouldn’t expect from the CEO of two million-dollar companies.
His openness with the painful reality of his success is also what makes him a regular Joe who is there to “just take the pain” and make sure he really cares about what he’s doing. He is a man of unlimited success who reaches down to elevate his fellow human beings by sharing his uncertainties. You just have the feeling that his success is even accessible to you.
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” – Elon Musk
2. He would be more authentic
Musk’s approachability is more authentic than you might think. Even in his public speeches he rarely gets the know-it-all presumptuous perspective. He gets nervous, makes some awkward moves and jokes, gets lost in details, and frequently interrupts himself, yet as Justin Bario writes for Inc. magazine, these only show his authentic passion about his vision.
“When you truly believe in an idea, and you focus on sharing that passion with others, you tend to forget about the mechanics of speaking and presenting. Instead of focusing on being nervous, you become focused on your belief. This leads you to speak more naturally, and makes it difficult for listeners to turn away.”
Also his authentic visions for social betterment beat the self-serving goals of many other billionaires. Whereas most entrepreneurs tend to see their work as revolutionary and disruptive, Elon actually moves away from such bold claims and replaces them with the question “How can we make things better?”
In an interview with the Telegraph, he explains that “a lot of my motivation comes from me personally looking at things that don’t work well and feeling a bit sad about how it would manifest in the future. And if that would result in an unhappy future, then it makes me unhappy. And so I want to fix it. That really is the motivation for me. I certainly don’t believe in disrupting things for the sake of it.”
3. He would be a tougher business rival
The fact that 8 out of 10 businesses fail might be a good reason to believe that the remaining 2 should really be tough. Elon’s businesses were never exceptional. Although he had netted $180 million from selling his online payments start up (later PayPal) to Ebay, he invested much of that money in Tesla and SpaceX, and he was constantly faced with financial issues to keep his companies up and running. In one case, when the news leaked that Tesla was left with its last $9 million, Musk promised to personally refund Tesla’s customers if the company couldn’t deliver the promised cars.
Even in SpaceX, things were not in full control. In August 2008, the third launch of SpaceX’s rocket, Falcon 1, failed and along with it three government satellites and the ashes of 208 people it carried were destroyed. This was already super costly for a privately held company.
Yet, such failure could never stop Musk from pursuing his dreams. In an interview with Wired just after the failed launch, Musk declared that he planned to do more launches: “We must get to orbit eventually, and we will. It might take us one, two or three more tries, but we will. We will make it work.”
Nearly a month later, Falcon 1 was successfully launched into space, and on December 23, SpaceX could seal a $1.2 billion contract with NASA to deliver its cargo to the space station in 12 rocket flights.
“Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up.” – Elon Musk
4. He would spend more on innovation
The $30 billion market cap in 2016 could be the jackpot for many business owners. Although Musk could have enjoyed a bit of risk-free stability, in the same year he made another decision that left the business world in a shock.
In late 2016 he acquired SolarCity for $2.6 billion. This of course puts Musk in a better position to implement his master plan to “move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy”, as he had declared in 2006. But just when Tesla was beginning to gain some serious traction among people and when many CEOs would have decided to focus on their current products, Elon Musk decided to move forward and offer a big upgrade to his products.
The merger of the two companies is “logical” and “quite obvious” from Musk’s point of view. Tesla should be able to offer an autonomous sustainable-energy solution: electric cars, solar roofs that produce electric energy, and Powerwalls that store the electric energy produced in the day to be used at nights. It seems that for Musk, the need for more innovation is on the forefront of his business goals.
There is never a better way to learn effective leadership than by looking at the successful examples. Elon Musk is such an example. His approachability, authenticity, toughness and geekiness make him an iconic figure in the business world.