This is the time of year when leaders tend to look back on the past 12 months and ask, "How's it gone this year?" If you're Elon Musk, you'll probably need a little more time to answer than the average leader to answer that question. In case you haven't heard of Elon Musk, he's a cofounder of PayPal, the CEO of Tesla Motors and the CEO of SpaceX. From what I've read lately, Musk has had a pretty good year.
Tesla is best known for its very hot $100k electric battery powered roadster that goes from 0 to 60 in under four seconds. One blew by my rental car on the 101 freeway on a trip to California this year. Very sweet. Not very practical though. After all, what's the market for six figure sports cars? That's really not what Musk is after though. As reported in Wired magazine a few months ago, Musk bought the former NUMMI manufacturing plant valued at $1 billion from Toyota for $42 million. That's where Tesla is going to build battery powered family sedans. When his company was just about to run out of cash, his engineers rigged a Smart car with Tesla batteries and he convinced the executives of Daimler Benz to license his technology.
This week, his other company, SpaceX, became the first commercial company in history to put a spacecraft in orbit and bring it back to earth. The plans are that SpaceX's Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule will be used to transport astronauts and equipment back and forth from the International Space Station.
So, when you're 39 years old and one of your companies is building high tech fast cars and your other company is launching rockets into space, by some standards, you've had a pretty good year. To get a little more insight into what makes Musk tick, check out this interview he did with Stephen Colbert. It's funny and informative.
So, is Musk the perfect leader? Unlikely, since there really aren't any of those. Are all his ventures likely to succeed? Probably not. He does, however, exhibit the clarity of focus, passion and willingness to make big bets that leaders who make game changing moves seem to share. If nothing else, it's fun to watch what he's going to do next. Wonder what 2011 has in store for him?
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