Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Using DC to change the world

Published:Sunday | September 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith
Elon Musk

Elon Musk is driven by a plan to colonise Mars as a safety net against mankind's extinction. According to the Washington Post, he is arguably the world's most important entrepreneur, the driving force behind PayPal (sold to eBay for US$1.4 billion).

Musk ploughed his resources and energy in pursuing life-changing projects. His Mars vision has spurred SpaceX to revolutionise thinking about space travel.

His concerns about fuel has led to the disruption of the automobile and energy sectors with Tesla (electric cars and battery solutions) and SolarCity (solar energy).

In essence, Musk has fundamentally impacted the way people think and do things in the areas of finance, space travel, transportation and energy, and there is more to come, like his Hyperloop Project, a Space Internet involving Google (satellites versus fibre-optic cables) and underground freeways.

What can we learn from Musk's behavioural DNA?

In analysing Musk, we see a marked preference for use of dominance and conscientiousness (DC style) in his behaviour.


Vision (D Style)


Musk was consumed by space travel long before his PayPal bonanza. Faster, safer, electronically smart cars that are recharged for free (= zero fuel cost) is just another of the science-fiction type ideas that Musk is actually bringing to life.


Independence (D Style)


Musk consistently rejects conventional wisdom. He insists on manufacturing components in-house as against developing a network of suppliers. That has produced a number of breakthroughs that have gives him a competitive edge and is already making a huge difference to our future.


Attention to detail (C Style)


Musk is wed to physics. He has an uncanny ability to break everything down and then rebuild a solution from there. Boiling things down to the fundamental truths and reasoning up from there. Fundamental principles are the trunk and branches, details are the leaves. Details need to be attached to something.


Task First


Musk is widely regarded by even his supporters as being difficult to get along with. He seeks to engage the brightest and the best, but not many survive over the long haul. He is a hard-task master, who holds staff to achieving virtually impossible objectives and timelines. But his own brutal work ethic is a living example of what he expects from his team. Saving the world requires total dedication. This is classic overused DC style, in which tasks take precedence over people.


Planning (C Style)


People are stunned by Musk's capacity to present well-developed plans for projects that might appear as daydreaming. This commitment to a carefully documenting and planning structure underpins Musk's extraordinary impact.


At the wheel (D Style)


There is an ongoing suggestion that given the breadth of Musk's interests and the magnitude of the task of running his empire, he should appoint a CEO for Tesla. Musk has resisted this call. He has consistently demonstrated that he wants the wheel in his hands.


Accountability (C Style)


Musk comes across as being unwilling to accept failure and errors. It is reported that a typo can put him off from reading further. Holding people accountable for their performance is a feature of the C style.

Musk's willingness to be held personally accountable for achieving his audacious goals (D style) adds daring and result-orientation to his leadership DNA.


Bottom line


Musk uses a blend of unrestrained Dominance (D style) coupled with unbridled use of conscientiousness (C style) to dream big dreams and bring them to fruition. His commitment to saving mankind and making things better, and his commitment to his children are fuelled by his rarely seen use of the S style (reserved/people-oriented). His success and clout have produced an increased reliance on dominance and higher risk tolerance. This may produce more audacious breakthroughs or huge setbacks.

- Trevor E S Smith is a director of the Success with People Academy home, the SHRM-accredited Certified Behavioural Coach award (now enrolling) and 3-D Team Leader Certification: Leading Difficult, Dominant and Diverse Personalities. The Success with People Academy applies DISCerning Communication while improving Recruitment & Team Performance. It prepares Personal & Team Behavioural DNA Analyses and 360 surveys on the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC.