How Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Reed Hastings Create a Culture of Learning Amongst Leaders

Article | Accountability Insights

by | Feb 12, 2018

Enterprise leaders need to foster a workplace learning culture that keeps the spirit of innovation alive within the workplace.

Read the original article published on Inc. Magazine: 5 Ways Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Reed Hastings Inspire Their Employees to Innovate

While the initial success of companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Tesla, is, of course, grounded in the fantastic products they’ve introduced to consumers, the leaders of these behemoths recognize that long-term success requires knowing how to change culture. In the fast-moving industries of technology and social media, leaders must know how to cultivate a workplace learning culture that keeps employees invested in their work and committed to the challenge of improving upon the status quo.

The strategies used by Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Reed Hastings are innovative and unique, but they can be borrowed by leaders from all industries to encourage a sense of creativity and curiosity in their employees. These great examples of workplace leadership can attribute much of their success to five critical strategies.

Lead With Passion

Mark Zuckerberg is passionate about the grand vision that his company is working towards — but he applies that same passion to the everyday, often unglamorous work it will take to achieve that vision. Through frequent appearances on the news and at conferences, as well as through posts on his own personal Facebook page, Zuckerberg is constantly setting an example for his employees, demonstrating to the world how excited he is about the work Facebook is doing. This kind of dedicated workplace leadership does more than inspire confidence in shareholders: employees who see that their managers are passionate about what they have achieved are much more inclined to work diligently in pursuit of the company vision themselves.

Lead By Example

Earlier this year, Elon Musk caught wind of some safety concerns on the part of employees in one of Tesla’s plants. Instead of just issuing a new company policy or sending a sympathetic email, Musk asked that employees send any and all concerns regarding safety directly to his inbox. On top of that, he promised to personally visit any factory in which these incidents occurred, visiting the factory floor and observing the process himself to determine what changes could be made to improve protocol. Musk’s decision to lead from the front lines showed his employees that he was committed to their safety and personally invested in changing Tesla’s workplace culture.

Create a Culture of Asking Questions

Leaders who create a culture in which employees are encouraged to ask questions are able to keep their organizations nimble and primed for growth. It was Musk’s constant willingness to ask questions and challenge the status quo that pushed Tesla from being just another car company to one of the most innovative businesses in the world. If Musk hadn’t challenged what was accepted as “the way business has always been done,” SpaceX would never have been born.

It takes the courage to think big to launch a company, but maintaining this mindset remains just as important as your company grows: promoting a workplace culture of learning through experimentation can help you to maintain your competitive edge for decades down the line.

Be Open to Change

Leaders must not only embrace change themselves, but ensure that their employees do the same in order to create and implement truly innovative ideas at their companies. CEOs like Netflix’s Reed Hastings, for example, understand that ideas for new products and processes are great, but that these innovations will never be truly impactful if they are not seen through to the finish. That’s how he pushed his company from mailing customers DVDs by hand to streaming all of its video content, a practice that was unheard of until his company championed it. Rather than letting this daring idea fall by the wayside, Hastings acted on it, and in doing so ushered in the new normal of on-demand video streaming services.

Empower Employees to Learn

It’s all well and good for managers to encourage their employees to take learning seriously — but the best leaders actually give their employees the resources they need to do it. For example, Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time each week learning new skills and developing their existing talents. Allowing employees the time and space to learn will generate positive returns for any company organization.

Partners In Leadership

Partners In Leadership