What Makes a Courageous Leader?


This is a question that is asked everyday across all industries. In order to grow a successful business many things have to fall in place, and chief among them is a courageous leader. Although there are many answers to this question, we have identified 5 attributes of the courageous leader of today:

1. Believe that the impossible or unimaginable is achievable. 

2. Face problems and obstacles head-on and insist on creative problem solving. 

Make a personal commitment against all odds (whether it be time or money, or both).

Never accept the status quo as the only way. 

The ability to think beyond yourself and focus on a better future for everyone. 

Wildly disrupting the auto, space travel, and solar energy industries is the inspiration behind our 5 qualities of a courageous leader. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity, is a leader that is innovative in both thought and practice and is fearless when it comes to possible failure. 

Before Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk co-founded PayPal and in order to entice the critical mass of users needed to make it a success,  Musk started off by offering $20 for those who signed up for the online payment system and $20 if they referred anyone. By investing over $60 million in this risky tactic, the company flourished to what it is today. Had Musk not been courageous enough to try it, there is no telling if it would have been a success.

For Tesla Motors, Musk envisions a future that relies on electric cars and lowering the consumption of gas and the effects of CO2 on Earth's atmosphere and oceans. He doesn't wish to be the next automotive giant such as GM or Toyota, but is forward-looking, actually releasing the patents of Tesla products so that others may further innovate and rapidly improve the technology. Again, courage. 

SpaceX is a project born out of the notion that man shouldn't stop at landing on the moon; Musk asserts that our technology should have been furthered by now and only hasn't been because it wasn't yet believed possible. Elon Musk believed in what others thought impossible. 


More from the courageous leader himself, Elon Musk, can be seen in the below interview with Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, conducted in April of 2013. Note: It is a 48 minute interview, so below are a few really telling conversation points to be sure to listen to:

11:20 Musk on PayPal - "We started off first by offering people $20 if they opened an account. And $20 if they referred anyone." 

16:25 "I discovered that actually, NASA had no plans to send people to Mars." 

17:57 Khan - "You were willing to bet the farm, so to speak, on this?" Musk - "Yes. I figured I was willing to spend half the money I got from PayPal, with no expectation of return because I thought that this was something that was pretty important and... if that got NASA a bigger budget and resulted in us going to Mars, then that would be a pretty good outcome."

19:49 "I was able to compress the costs of the spacecraft down to a relatively manageable number and I got stuck on the rocket. The US rockets were way too expensive." 

26:34 "SpaceX has been around for 11 years and thus far we have not recovered any rockets. We've recovered the spacecraft... but none of our attempts to recover the rocket stages have been successful." 

29:48 Khan - "What's your best guess of when we're going to have someone on Mars?" Musk - "I think probably about twelve years."

30:13 Khan (on Tesla) - "What gave you the confidence to pursue it?"

32:40 "The point at which we're approaching half of all news cars being made are electric.... I would consider that to be the victory condition."