With one simple tweet, Elon Musk shows a masterful lesson in leadership

With one simple tweet, Elon Musk shows a masterful lesson in leadership
PHOTO: Reuters

Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is running electric car company Tesla and the aerospace company SpaceX. He's planning to build a city on Mars. He's a co-founder of the non-profit Open AI, which aims to prevent dangerous artificial intelligence, and the founder of Neuralink, a company working to connect the brain with computers. He has a lot going on.

And yet, the billionaire entrepreneur is not too busy to listen to his customers.

The day after Christmas, in a single tweet, Musk thanked Tesla customers for their support and asked what the company can do to improve. The tweet inspired an avalanche of responses.

on Twitter

The tweet was "liked" 137,000 times (as of the publishing of this story). Musk's responses to user feedback revealed he is "dying" to make a Tesla pick-up truck. He individually responded to about a dozen other tweets indicating various technological advances, like confirming an upgraded version of the autopilot software is on its way.

Customers were impressed with Musk's willingness to interact with them.

on Twitter

on Twitter

Indeed, listening to customers is a core tenet of being a successful entrepreneur and business owner, and Musk isn't the only one who does it.

"My business philosophy is listen to your employees, listen to your customers. Shut up and do what they tell you," T-Mobile CEO John Legere tells CNBC's Jim Cramer. "The way I run my company is completely aligned with that."

Meanwhile, the PhD inventor of the viral sensation Instant Pot, a multi-cooking device, perfects each new generation of his wildly popular gadget with user feedback. He tells CNBC Make It he's read nearly all of the tens of thousands of reviews left on Amazon, and he pays the closest attention to the negative ones.

"Those are the reviews that will point out the shortcomings of the product and give us insight to improve the products," says CEO Robert Wang. "Every 12 months to 18 months, we introduce the next generation of Instant Pot incorporating feedback from our real customers."

Musk's interaction directly with customers on Twitter is a fast, free, easy way to win loyalty and come up with ideas for improvement. It's not, however, going to solve all his problems.

Musk is spending aggressively to reach his ambitious goals. His bold predictions and big spending have some industry watchers nervous, suspicious of his ability to succeed.

"To believe in the story, at this point you're making a James Bond trade," portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management Christian Hoffmann told CNBC at the end of November, speaking of Tesla. "The company needs to dodge the avalanche, avoid the gunfire, ski off the cliff, pull off the ripcord on their parachute and glide to safety so that they can save the world."

This article was first published in CNBC.

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