In a recent video of Elon Musk that was shared on X, which the rest of us affectionately call Twitter, the billionaire tech mogul was seen walking through one of his car factories to show the interviewer where his desk was.
At the time this article was written, the video had 8.5k likes and close to 700k views. In it, Musk says, “I think it’s important for a leader to be at the front lines. The problem is getting output up to speed…It’s important to be in the factory and know where the problems are. I don’t want to be up in a high tower; I want to be in the middle of the battle, which means I have to put my desk in the middle of the factory.
One thing cannot be denied, despite the fact that each of us may have our own opinions about Musk and his leadership style, including some questionable behaviors that have made him the focus of attention in lawsuits over the past few years: Elon perfectly summed up the essence of true leadership in a hands-on leader within a 51-second video.
Elon was aware of the fact that it was his duty to physically move to whichever location the problem was located in the event that certain recurring problems occurred at one end of the manufacturing line. This allowed him to observe things for himself, offer real-time, hands-on coaching, and impact operations and development from his personal perspective as early as feasible.
How does this apply to today’s leaders?
The conventional wisdom states that leaders are responsible for providing strategic direction and establishing a vision, whereas managers are more driven by operational concerns and concentrate on the day-to-day tasks of putting that vision into action.
Of fact, in today’s world, it’s sometimes impossible to not blur the lines a little bit, and we typically see a cross-over as these conventional responsibilities combine (for example, senior directors are frequently more involved in day-to-day operations, particularly in smaller businesses), which is not permitted under this idea.
However, as Musk correctly pointed out, during times of crisis, people tend to rally behind and buy into heroic leaders who are involved and take a hands-on approach. This is in contrast to situations in which the leader acts as a tyrant or a spectator from the sidelines.
While being able to delegate tasks and provide high-level direction is a vital job skill for business leaders to develop, they also need to be flexible enough to step in when necessary and provide more detailed direction, coaching, and guiding. This is especially true for businesses that are either small or medium in size, as well as newer businesses.
Naturally, it is not possible to be involved in each and every minute detail of operations, and this should not be the case. Scalability and productivity are two reasons why this should not be the case.
Instead, you should concentrate on the aspects of the company that call for the greatest attention, such as the locations that are experiencing the most obvious transitions, crises, or disruptions. It is now safe for you to take a step back after you have reached the point where you are confident that the operation has moved out of the danger zone and is now being handled by trustworthy individuals.
For hands-on leadership to be effective, leaders need to have a comprehensive awareness of the technical side of the work that their subordinates do, be familiar with bottlenecks, and have direct involvement in co-creating specific solutions for those bottlenecks. In addition, leaders need to have direct involvement in the work that their subordinates do.
Micromanagement or hands-on management?
At the same time, it is important to make sure that a hands-on attitude is not confused with micromanagement. The two might appear comparable to one another at first glance, yet they are extremely distinct from one another in practice.
Employees are continually scrutinized with micromanagement; there is minute reporting of every aspect, constant checking in and questioning, which disempowers your teams and creates a culture of distrust within the organization.
On the other hand, hands-on leadership is a style of management in which staff are directed and coached as the leader works alongside them to demonstrate proper procedures. This type of leadership guarantees that higher quality is attained, that their careers are nourished, and that they are fostered to have a stronger connection and engagement with you and your corporate vision.
Maintain a level of presence that is undivided in both the foreground and the background of the situation. Make yourself available to employees for the purpose of receiving feedback, queries, and the provision of motivation and encouragement. By doing so, you will earn respect and credibility as a leader while simultaneously raising the morale and enthusiasm of your team.
Roll up your sleeves and get into the heart of the action if you want to improve the quality and performance of your products and services, increase the value of your employer brand, and boost the level of trust that your stakeholders have in you, preserve your relevance so that you can be agile in your own career, and raise the value of your employer brand. Involve your staff in the problem-solving process and encourage them to come up with innovative answers while you keep your eye on the wider picture. It’s time to do away with the age-old custom of keeping one’s swanky corner office in the corporate headquarters.