Regardless of your personal opinions, it’s undeniable that Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs were and have been driving forces for innovations that have changed the world. Their success has made them tremendously wealthy, powerful, and very influential. Many people wonder how they came to attain such status. According to Walter Isaacson, an author, and historian, their success can be attributed to a common personality trait.
Why Isaacson is an Expert
You may wonder what makes Isaacson the expert on their personalities. It is because he has spent so much time with these men that he can see their strongest qualities and deduce the fact that they share similar traits. He wrote Steve Jobs’ biography and is currently working on writing Musk’s. Isaacson’s research to accurately capture these men means he’s got a great handle on understanding the way their brains work.
The Personality Trait
Isaacson says the personality trait shared by all 3 of these successful men is they are unemotional. They do not, “engage emotionally or empathetically with their colleagues and employees.” He further explains, “ They are uncompromising in their vision”. These men knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish and set out to do so, not allowing anyone or anything to sway their decisions.
Comparing Employee Experiences
Many of Musk’s employees have concurred with Isaacson about this shared personality trait. Musks employees say he is a micromanager. They say he’s never been shy about expressing his dissatisfaction with their work production. Employees have said Musk is not always fun or easy to work with. On the plus side, his employees have also said he’s inspiring and funny.
When questioned about what it’s like to work with Steve Jobs, Apple employees have expressed a similar sentiment. In 2019, former Apple Executive, Guy Kawasaki stated that Jobs often demanded excellence from his employees and rarely focused on social etiquette in the workplace.
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Musk and Tesla have recently encountered negative feedback from employees stating harsh working conditions for warehouse employees. While Musk admits that he expects a lot from his employees, he also notes that success isn’t possible without hard work. Musk has also pushed his own limits in the hopes that he can show his employees, hard work really does pay off. After all, the most successful managers are those who work side by side with employees to get things done.
During one production period, Musk slept in his office or in his car to be close to the office at all times. His factories were expected to produce at least 5,000 of the new model 3 sedans all within a week.
Missing the Mark
Tesla was set to produce 200,000 new Model 3’s in 2017. Unfortunately, even with all his hard work and high expectations, the company had only produced around 2,700 by the end of 2017. That was a hard year for Musk. Many people, including himself, weren’t sure he’d be able to overcome.
Musk didn’t meet his projected numbers. However, thanks to his personality trait as described by Isaacson, Musk did eventually pull himself and his company out of debt. Musk is now the wealthiest man in the world and believes that without hard work, success can’t be achieved.
Breaking Down the Personality Trait
Most people who run companies and are successful have what’s referred to as a Type A Personality. The personality trait that stands out most is hard work as Musk points out. There are other examples of this personality type that include: ambitious, determined, focused, highly goal-oriented, and often organized who don’t like wasting time. Musk, Jobs, and Gates also share the personality trait of transparency. They have all always been candid about their goals, addressed controversy, and been open about their beliefs.
3 Men. Similar Traits.
Isaacson states that he sees a similar personality trait in Jobs and Musk but extends that comparison to Bill Gates. Apparently, Musk and Gates don’t always get along but do share the necessary personality traits to be successful. Gates and Jobs were longtime friends but always very competitive with one another, ” frenemies” if you will. However, their intelligence and drive laid the foundation for their success. Jobs and Gates were constantly inspired to use more ingenuity in order to become more successful. Their friendship and competitiveness inspired them both to be great thinkers.
Musk, Jobs, and Gates, unfortunately, would not be able to achieve success alone. Therefore, they do rely on workers and employees to work hard. Possibly even working in what may be considered harsh conditions to achieve their vision. While many feel as though they are pawns in the corporate world, they do have to have the willingness to bend over backward in order to be a part of something great.
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- “This personality trait helped Musk, gates and jobs succeed, says biographer: ‘it’s something a lot of these people have’.” CNBC. Tom Huddleston Jr. September 14, 2022.
- “How tesla’s model 3 became Elon Musk’s version of hell.” Bloomberg.com. Tom Randall, et al. July 12, 2018.
- “What it means to have type A personality traits.” Healtline. Crystal Raypole. November 9, 2021.
- “The psychological profiles of the world’s top CEOS.” Under30CEO. Matt Wilson. April 10, 2013.