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Effective Leaders See the Whole Picture

January 12, 2015

Updated June 12, 2016

Whole Picture It doesn’t matter whether you’re leading a company, government agency or not-for-profit organization; being a top leader has become tougher, with more challenges, unpredictable events and intertwined issues to juggle. Add to this dynamic those individuals who seek to create a new disruptive product or service, one that will shake up society for the better, a true innovation with lasting–and replicating–attributes.

This form of what could be called disruptive leadership is hard to find. Indeed, there are many talented male and female leaders around the world in the public and private sectors. However, to find those leaders who see the big picture, with the numerous inter-connections of issues and events that span the globe, is another matter. One example of a top corporate leader featured in this blog not too long ago is Unilever CEO Paul Polman, whose emphasis on sustainable business practices–the Triple Bottom Line–sets this conglomerate apart from other companies.

In this post you’re re-introduced to an amazing entrepreneur who is disrupting business on several fronts. Meet Elon Musk, aka Rocket Man.

Musk (South African-born) is not just a genius (who helped create PayPal and which was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.6 billion) but a huge risk-taker. He’s been close to bankruptcy; been sneered at by numerous others, including retired Apollo astronauts; and hit what appeared to be impenetrable obstacles. Yet, Musk never gave up in his efforts to bring to life his visions of the future.

Musk In 2014, Musk again seemed to be on the ropes, facing some big challenges with his electric motor vehicle company Tesla Motors (co-led with three others) and SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies founded in 2002 with $100 million from his PayPal sale proceeds of $165 million), the world’s leading private space company.

But Musk is moving forward. Witness his surprise announcement in 2014 of a patent-free business model for Tesla. He received much criticism from some quarters for doing so. Musk’s reasoning for his decision to share the car company’s patents and future technological developments is for the betterment of the planet and society. He’s committed to reducing the carbon footprint imposed on the environment.

In 2016, Musk also opened a massive $5 billion lithium-ion battery factory in the Nevada desert. Dubbed Tesla Gigafactory 1, the plant supplies Tesla Motors at its Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. It’s the second largest complex in the world, by usable space, and its economic benefits are estimated at $100  billion over the next 20 years.

And then there’s his Star-wars inspired X-wing rocket for SpaceX, which has proven its technology and capabilities to both government and the private sector by carrying satellites into orbit.

In contrast to other visionaries, Elon Musk has the special ability to integrate his business decisions and executions with the emerging needs of society and the environment. His unique skill at tying together breakthrough technologies, including the sharing of intellectual property, innovative practices and then commercializing sustainable technologies underscores his savvy business ability to achieve his goals in conjunction with societal and environmental considerations. Musk is a true practitioner of the Triple Bottom Line.

Some would argue that Musk’s business acumen–make that brilliance–is more significant than his actual inventions and innovations. Perhaps. But finding a leader-visionary who parallels Musk is likely an exercise in sustained patience.

Patience is a virtue, and I’m learning patience. It’s a tough lesson.

– Elon Musk

Leading in Multipolar World 2nd editionClick here to download my complimentary e-book Leading in a Multi-Polar World: Four Forces Shaping Society, 2nd Edition.

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DSCN2815Take a moment to meet Jim.

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