Do You Have to be So Friggin’ Mean?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Story: This past year when I was at Austin’s SXSW with my co-writer Garrett, I was amazed at the cult-like line up to hear from visionary Elon Musk. His following is incredible. There is an excellent Wall Street Journal article about Mr. Musk published Sept. 1. It juxtapositions the two headed personality of this complicated South African. The Journal writes: “He’s a visionary entrepreneur who promises to take us to Mars, fix LA’s traffic problems, bring electric cars to the masses, and deliver solar power to the world…” AND “He’s an ambition autocrat who over-promises, misses production goals, tweets recklessly, browbeets employees, and now faces an SEC investigation.” My question is why the latter? There are some people who argue that the only way to achieve greatness is to be be thorny, even abusuve to other “lesser” people. Steve Jobs was notorious for it. In the world of sports, New England Patriot football coach Bill Belichick is considered to be quite prickly.

Key Point: I think the truly remarkable people and the ones to be fully celebrated, are those that demand greatness from themselves, and get extraordinary results by inspiring and uplifting ALL people around them. The Journal claims that Mr. Musk, whose net worth is an estimated 20 billion dollars, has lost 50 Tesla Vice Presidents or higher in the past two years. Mr. Musk is a genius, but surely he must acknowledge that that kind of leadership turmoil is going to cause serious short and long term problems.

Apple folks were allegedly quite anxious getting on an elevator with Jobs. It was a short ride, and he often grilled employees on the trip, including the legendary firing of a young woman after hearing her describe her role. “We are not going to need you” was his comment as he strode out of the elevator. I wonder if Mr. Jobs thought about what went through that Apple employee’s mind while he went on his way to sushi? (By the way, I get that you have to get value out of every role and person… But you don’t have to be a prick).

Hey I fully understand that if you are going to put a ping in the universe like Mr. Jobs, you have to be exceptionally genius, great, and perhaps even quirky. And you have to set unusually high bars of excellence. But I genuinely believe you can do that and treat ALL people with respect. When one has immense power like many CEOs do, it is easy to take liberties with the idea of not putting up with “fools,” dispensing with them like Texas roadkill. However, while people like Musk and Jobs are legendary, they actually do need other people to get things done. Why not also become legendary for how you uplift people on the journey? Wouldn’t it be great if people looked forward to running into the CEO on the elevator? And I do NOT believe in the maxim “to win at any cost.” That’s a bunch of bravado spun hooey. Some costs are just too damn high.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Become students of those leaders who make magical things happen while elevating ALL others too. How do they do it?
  2. Do people want to work around you because you get things done with excellence and the way you intentionally develop others too? Why? Why not?

Extraordinary results and uplifting people in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I too have heard about how difficult Jobs was, and how quirky Musk is. Although I’m happy not to have to currently deal with leaders like that, I also think it’s my responsibility as an employee to be above the weirdness of difficult leaders, and learn how to lead better from their mistakes. The elevator ride is only awkward if you decide it’s awkward, and I think you can levitate yourself to a higher position if you try your hardest not to allow quirky jerks get to you.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis