Yes, leaders can and do make mistakes. They probably make mistakes more often than we realize and probably more than some of them would like to admit. However, like everyone else in this world, don’t be mistaken to believe that leaders don’t make mistakes. Remember how the leadership mistakes of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s founder and CEO, really damaged his leadership brand? Well, not all mistakes have to be so detrimental.
Some leadership mistakes are less damaging in nature and more of a corrective realignment that’s needed from time to time. Those are the ones that you admit without shame or remorse, learn from and strengthen yourself, and move forward with renewed resolve and determination. These are the leadership mistakes that you need to make to bounce back stronger and explore new avenues. These are the leadership mistakes that are necessary for progress. And these leadership mistakes that are inevitable when you’re aiming to exponentially grow in the age of accelerated growth.
Who’s The Newest Culprit?
Elon Musk is the most recent to admit that he was wrong and I’m not surprised. Why do you ask? Well, like I said, if you’re seriously looking to be a disruptor, have a game changing vision and strategy, and looking to grow your company at an excessive and rapid pace then you’re bound to make mistakes (and probably several of them). That’s exactly what the illustrious, visionary and highly innovative leader of Tesla did. He admitted that he was wrong and did it bearing no embarrassment or shame. And of course it didn’t negatively impact his confidence. Instead, he’s moving ahead with rejuvenated resolve and purpose. He’s taken this leadership mistake on himself and suggested the way forward from there.
What was his leadership mistake? In his own words, he tweeted on April 13 “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.” That was a big admittance from a leader who’s viewed by many as a visionary and pioneer in automation, innovation and technology. He trusted and relied on automation like most companies do, however, this time he was wrong. He undermined the importance and strength of his human resources and for that he’s now looking at ways to make things right.
This admittance of a leadership mistake comes at a time when he was recently awarded by the board a $55 billion payout, should Tesla’s fortunes be reformed. While some may see this as a sign of future leadership mistakes that he’ll come out to admit, I see it as a brave acceptance that he can add as a feather to his cap. To me, it makes his leadership brand all the more interesting.
What’s the Follow-up?
So the mistake was made and lessons were learned. What’s next? Well, the only direction to move in from here is forward right? That’s precisely what Elon Musk has in mind. And here’s how.
To start off, by admitting that automation isn’t working in favor of Tesla Motors, he’s realized the importance and reliance on human capital. Hence, he announced that in the coming months Tesla would be recruiting hundreds more staff to bump up production.
Next, he’s pressuring his finance team to comb through their expenses and revisit their spending habits. This of course would directly impact their bottom line and help enhance their chances of achieving profitability.
Third, he’s given Tesla’s contractors an ultimatum to either shape up their operational standards or find another supplier. Tough love is all he’s got for them.
And finally, to his employees, he’s got a list of productivity tips that he’s advising them to follow. These include:
- Shorten the length of time spent in meetings.
- Avoid phone calls and meetings that aren’t serving a purpose.
- Stop wasting time memorizing acronyms.
- Bypass the chain of command and get the job done.
- Bypass rules if they’re a hindrance and outright ridiculous.
To be honest, he’s said what most leaders should be saying to their teams. This is precisely the medicine that team members need in a time when exponential growth is vital for sustainability. What are your thoughts on leadership mistakes and the tips Elon Musk has given his team? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.