Be a Realist: Great leaders can differentiate between a fairytale and reality. Knowing what is possible will keep your company and team working toward a plausible outcome.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Bremer.

Building his business acumen as a Tesla veteran of 11 years, Jonathan Bremer is now the owner of two innovative companies: Komodo Covers and LiftedViz. As a mechanical engineer specializing in design integration and prototyping, he has considerable expertise in the product life cycle and continually closing the gap between design and reality. Most notably, Jonathan worked on Tesla’s small prototype teams responsible for the Model S, 3, X, Y, Semi truck, Cybertruck, and Optimus, the humanoid robot.

He is also known within Tesla for his creation and implementation of the design integration buck, a significant contribution to compressing the automotive design cycle. Jonathan currently oversees high-level engineering and business operations for both Komodo Covers and LiftedViz, and is constantly driven to actualize technology that brings humanity into an integrated and sustainable future.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Getting to spend time in the mountains and ski! Being in the cold and the fresh air really allows my brain to clear and my body to reset.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

You know, it seems a bit faux pas, but honestly it’s Elon Musk. And it’s not because I idolize the man, it’s because I worked for him for 12yrs, and got to witness what makes him amazing and extremely challenging to work for. The way in which he collapses the classical chain-of-command, actively encouraging direct contribution from ANY level of the company TO any level of the company, is a lesson to be remembered. Dissolving the traditional corporate hierarchy, when it comes to the flow of ideas and information, ensures that good ideas — no matter their origins — can make meaningful change within your organization. Another lesson to keep is embracing and allowing for failure. I know this piece of advice feels tired and many people say it, but when doing things that have never been done before, it’s extremely rare to get it right the first time. People need to be encouraged to test their ideas and learn from their mistakes. This is key to innovation. Elon might be hard on his employees, but he certainly lives and breathes these values, which isn’t often seen in the traditionally uber wealthy — even as he climbs the ladder of influence.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

Believing other people’s stories and/or visions, and not sticking to my own. In business, relationships can take a really long time to cultivate, and relying on a single strategic partner for the ultimate success of that business puts too much risk in something you don’t have control over. Turns out, it’s really easy to fall into the all-too-common trap of: “I have a revolutionary idea, and this is the right, correct, and ONLY way to get there.” Avoid getting stuck in previous decisions and not being able to see the forest through the trees. Sometimes you need to step away from the problem to make sure you’re still on the right path. And if you realize you’re not, pivot as necessary. It’s actually something I picked up from my dad, and that I learn more and more each day, is to plan and pivot.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

This is a really interesting question. Over time, as a leader’s responsibility grows, what one views as a priority changes too. Being responsible for the outcome of an organization has different priorities then leading a development team in the creation of a product. Learning to balance the growth of individuals while supporting the needs of a business, can be significantly harder than expected. A great leader needs to be able to see the big picture and the details within it, and make the decisions that lead to the best outcome for the whole business.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

Micromanaging can stifle productivity. And it’s tiresome, for all parties involved! Always hire people smarter than you and trust them in their judgment and experience.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or Relevant?

Listen to the insights of people on the front lines, they will often have a perspective that you do not.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

The only thing constant in life is change. If you can’t be part of the change, you will absolutely be left behind. Always question yourself. Just because you had success with a previous method does not mean that’s the way it should always be done. Strive for continuous improvement in all things, including yourself.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

It is impossible for any one person to do everything required to run a business. Be strategic in the help you get and reserve your time for what you are best at.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Be a Realist: Great leaders can differentiate between a fairytale and reality. Knowing what is possible will keep your company and team working toward a plausible outcome.
  • Be Resilient: Great leaders have the strength that others can put their confidence in. In trying times, people need someone to carry the torch and someone to believe in.
  • Be Prepared: Seeing the future would be great but it’s often hard to predict the outcome of a situation. A great leader should be able to identify probable outcomes and be prepared to take on whatever they encounter.
  • Be Personable & Authentic: I do think it’s important that people truly like you, this helps enable talent acquisition and retention, as well as funding and business relationships.
  • Have Salesmanship: Whether you are convincing a candidate to join your team or securing a business contract, leaders need to be able to bring people into their vision and recruit them towards a goal.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

We only exist in the present moment. Ruminating in the past, or pondering the future, will not accomplish anything real. To paint a masterpiece you must first put brush to paper.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I want everyone that works with me to feel that they were empowered to learn, grow, and contribute to our shared goal.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Please reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!