Leadership Lessons from Elon Musk and Bill Gates

Having just been named the fourth richest person in the world, Elon Musk recently joined an elite cadre of entrepreneurs and investors that includes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft visionary Bill Gates. But what is it about leaders like Musk and Gates that sets them apart from so many of their competitors? Here are just a few lessons in entrepreneurship that we can learn from these industry titans, and why thinking big can still make an impact in 2020.

  1. Work Hard

Despite his success with companies like SpaceX, PayPal, and Tesla, Elon Musk refuses to rest on his laurels. To this day, the entrepreneur is said to routinely work anywhere from 80 to 120 hours per week. According to Musk, “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” Nor is Musk an outlier in this way: While building Microsoft from scratch, Bill Gates was said to work his team around the clock to meet tight deadlines. Among company founders at Microsoft, in fact, all-night coding sessions were the rule rather than the exception.

  1. Think (and Dream) Big

When Elon Musk and Bill Gates think big, they think very big. Musk set out to create a luxury electric car company that would help consumers collectively save the environment. He wanted to privatize space travel and launch satellites that would revolutionize personal communication. Similarly, Gates wanted to upend the consumer software industry and change the way that companies across the globe did business. These are not small goals, but we probably would never have heard of Elon Musk or Bill Gates if they had never dared to dream big.

  1. Know Your Value

Even in the notoriously competitive world of start-up companies, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are both well-known for driving hard bargains within their respective industries. That kind of assertiveness can seem unsavory to some, but the truth is that Musk and Gates display a confidence in their abilities that can be intimidating to competitors. Say what you will about these entrepreneurs, but they stand their ground and deliver on big promises. That kind of confidence can’t be bought.

  1. Always Keep Learning

As a child, Elon Musk read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica twice. Even as a billionaire, Musk constantly seeks to learn more about engineering and technology from top scientists. Like Musk, Bill Gates could afford many times over to go on vacation for the rest of his life. Despite his busy schedule, however, the entrepreneur always makes time to learn about the world around him, and his reading suggestions are prized by his loyal fanbase.

While many books could be written about the management and entrepreneurial styles of Elon Musk and Bill Gates, the truth is that much of what these thought leaders believe about the business world can be distilled into four main principles. As Musk and Gates show, an attitude that prizes self-confidence, curiosity, hard work, and big ideas can serve entrepreneurs extremely well in the long-term. Truly, that is entrepreneurship at its best!