I enjoy learning through instruction that is related to real life experiences. It sticks better in my mind when I learn from people who have essentially been there, done that. Earlier this year I decided to read the autobiographies of Phil Knight, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson. I read each book through a lens of leadership lessons — noticing their habits, their admirable qualities, as well some of their mistakes I might want to stay away from. I started to see some similarities and I found that they could essentially be separated into two groups: the “change the world leaders” and the “quality of life leaders”.
Elon and Steve were the change the world leaders. They wanted to leave their mark, people be damned. Both men emerged from troubled childhoods ready to make an impact. While reading about them, I started thinking about what kind of archetype they might own. What were their motivations? It became clear they’re motivated by changing the world and achievement. Here are a few leadership characteristics I noticed:
1. They Had the Ability to Bend Reality.
They saw no constraints, so they would put goals out there and people would have to figure out how to make them happen. Despite how crazy some of these goals sounded at first, the teams were also filled with pride an awe at what they accomplished in the end.
2. They Were Very Critical of People.
Although I saw this as a negative, it really created a team of A players that supported each other. There was no such thing as B player on these teams — they got fired so fast. It was the bar that they set and if you wanted to stick around you’d reach that bar.
3. They Had End to End control.
While this full control is not always a reality in our business, it was for them. They figured out the entire process, the entire line of products, and instead of sourcing them from other companies they kept it all under their control.
Phil and Richard were the quality of life leaders. They had more traditional childhoods with more stability and nurture. These men were motivated by happiness. They wanted paradise not only for themselves, but for their families and their employees. They were parental, pioneering and collegial in their leadership style. It reminded me much more of how we operate at redpepper. As far as their DiSC, I believe they were more high i. They’re motivated by influencing people and bringing them along. These were some common characteristics:
1. They Were Quick to Reward and Celebrate People.
They gave appreciation back to the company as opposed to taking it for themselves (the way Elon and Steve operated).
2. They Hired Smarter.
They didn’t see themselves as the smartest person in the room. They wanted to surround themselves with people smarter than them.
3. They Were Listeners.
They knew if they didn’t talk to people face-to-face and listen that they would be so detached from the reality of their businesses that they’d become irrelevant.
While I definitely saw more parallels between redpepper and the quality of life leadership style, you’ve got to hand it to Elon and Steve for their ability to set out to change the world and actually do it. Overall, I found both leadership styles, as well as all four leaders, to be quite fascinating.