Tesla Motors seems to constantly be in the news for a whole variety of usually negative reasons. The latest is the resignation of their CFO which caught everyone by surprise. A few months prior it was the resignation/firing of the head of Tesla’s Chinese business.
Many believe the dictatorial behavior of the CEO of Tesla may be the culprit here. He has a reputation for demanding that totally unrealistic targets be set, publicizing them with the press, and then blaming others when they are not achieved. For example, the China firing occurred after he continually, and unrealistically, claimed China Tesla sales would be equal to the U.S. by 2015. Tesla only sold 120 cars in China in Q4 of 2014, just before the firing.
Recently the Financial Times cited that in a new biography about the Tesla CEO, the author described him as an “egomaniacal, stubborn jerk,” a “confrontational know-it-all,” and a man “vicious in his personal attacks.” A recent example of what the biographer is talking about was when this CEO claimed boldly that within ten years Tesla would be selling more than a million cars a year, growing 50% a year constantly during that period and will have a valuation of $700 billion, the current valuation of Apple Computer, the world’s most valuable company.
Of course, the exact opposite of this kind of behavior is the person who is basically a doormat. He or she gets run over by everyone and generates no clear vision as to what the organization is trying to achieve.
Stepping back, there are three simple steps that every leader should be taking all the time, enabling them to be neither a dictator nor a doormat but instead, a highly regarded and reliable steward of the business:
1.) Face Reality & Be Objective – At every juncture, the leader needs to be objectively analyzing the data that is available and looking at alternatives for improving in the future. This should be done while at the same time, carefully managing the going operation to avoid any short-term disappointments.
2.) Seek Valuable Input – It’s vital for a leader to constantly be probing the individuals who work for them as well as any other people who can provide valuable insights. That kind of reaching out can lead to valuable insights and build great morale within the organization.
3.) Make the Key Decisions and Launch the Game Plan – Once a thorough analysis and active debate of all the viable options is complete, the leader needs to summarize the learning, make key decisions, and execute the resulting game plan.
Don’t be a Dictator or a Doormat! Make these three points your mode of operation.