Most Fortune 500 CEOs play the stodgy, conservative role in order to neatly “fit in” with the corporate crowd. Not Elon Musk. As head of both Tesla and SpaceX, the irreverent leader has always colored outside the lines. As Tanyo Gochev explains in Thrive Global, Elon Musk is successful “by being part of the culture” as opposed to hiding behind corporate-speak.
Elon has announced Tesla surfboards, short-shorts, and (most recently) a Tequila! Huh? Doesn’t this stuff just cause strife for Tesla? Gochev writes, “He knows that each thing he says will attract media attention, and [sometimes] in the short-term, that may not be positive. But in the long-run, he wins.”
Why? “[Elon] is constantly in the news cycle, whether it’s for a new Tesla unveiling, a SpaceX launch, or a Neuralink demo. Elon knows how to generate hype and excitement around his products… He wins because, like Gary Vee says, ‘attention is currency’ in today’s world,” says Gochev.
Above: Elon Musk introduces some fun and surprising products related, albeit loosely, to his brands (YouTube: Reuters)
What if he creates a foolish meme or (ahem) puffs a joint? Isn’t there blowback? According to Gochev, at the end of the day, “no one cares. That’s what makes Elon such a marketing genius. He knows that nobody can keep up with the [never-ending] news cycle constantly, so whatever he does, it will be forgotten in a couple of days.”
Elon doesn’t seem to follow the standard CEO script. For example, the current situation presented a dilemma for holding Tesla’s Shareholder Meeting in-person. According to Carmine Gallo in Inc, Musk thought outside-the-box. Elon did the presentation on an outdoor stage while attendees watched from inside their cars. “It’s the first Tesla drive-in movie theater,” Musk joked as drivers honked their horns to show their approval.
The South China Morning Post concludes that Elon’s management style is, indeed, “anything but conventional.” In turn, he’s “no stranger to making the headlines, whether it’s by hanging out with the equally eccentric Kanye West [or] selling flame-throwers through his venture The Boring Company… Musk’s journey to this point has been just as unconventional as he is.”