Are You a Bezos or a Musk? Master the Different Styles of Innovative Leadership

The conflict between the leaders of the two teams. Business competition. Search for compromises. People in the discussion. Conflict among employees. Two opponents. Conflict of interest. Dispute.

Does your leadership style enable you to create more value in your organization?

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X are both recognized as successful, powerful innovators who have effectively leveraged their ideas and reputations to attract financial and human capital to their companies and projects. But that is where their similarities end, says Jeff Dyer, leading expert on innovative business models and professor of strategy at the Wharton School and Brigham Young University.

What they have in common, says Dyer in an article for Forbes, is their ability to muster and utilize what he calls “innovation capital,” the subject of his groundbreaking book “Innovation Capital: How to Compete – and Win – Like the World’s Most Innovative Leaders” (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2019). In other words, both Bezos and Musk have created personal brands that serve as magnets for the money and expertise they need to make their visions into reality, a process that takes immense time and skill and a subject on which Dyer is an expert. “But beyond their innovation capital,” writes Dyer, “these two leaders have led the way to these outsize outcomes in markedly different ways.”

In his Forbes piece, Dyer describes the four key ways in which Bezos and Musk differ in how they lead their organizations:

  1. Customer First vs. Technology First. Bezos typically focuses first on what consumers want and need and works backwards to the solution; in contrast, Musk tries to get ahead of the consumer through entirely new products and services built on breakthrough technologies.
  2. Voicing Visions and Goals. Bezos keeps relatively quiet about what he’s doing, while Musk loudly trumpets his ideas and what he wants to accomplish.
  3. A Deliberate Planning vs. Bold Leaps Approach. Bezos follows a step-by-step formula and says that things will take time, while Musk seeks radical breakthroughs.
  4. Delegation and Employee Empowerment. Bezos has created a framework within Amazon aimed at encouraging employees to take initiative and drive innovation, while Musk tends to be more hands on as the catalyst of technology breakthroughs and innovation.

Are either of these styles of innovative leadership better than the other? No, says Dyer. It all depends on what kind of company you run, in what kind of industry you operate and, crucially, in how you work best as an individual.

But to discover whether the Bezos or Musk style (or someone else’s entirely) works for you, you must first understand and practice the essentials of innovation capital and leadership, as taught by Jeff Dyer.

Contact us to learn more about his methods for achieving effective innovation leadership, and more specifically how to become an innovative leader to create more value in your organization.

Jennifer Zottola: