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Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are two of the most talked about CEO’s and billionaires today. Both have pioneered industries Musk with PayPal which changed the online buying world dramatically, Tesla which developed the first affordable fully electric car, SpaceX which has innovated the reusable space rockets making space travel cheaper, and now he’s looking to acquire Solar City the solar panel installation company and merge it together with Tesla Motors. And then there is Jeff Bezos the mastermind behind the Giant E-commerce Company, Amazon, which he started from just an online bookstore and has grown into the prime empire it is today. To compare these two influential leaders we are going to look at how they match up against each other in regards to the Big 5 model. The first trait that we are going use to compare Bezos and Musk is whether they are introverted or extroverted.
Musk has a very alpha personality and you can see his extroversion in his business dealings as well as a passion for his products and social life. Musk is not afraid of public platforms, you can often see him on stages making unveils of new products, charity speaking, connecting with customers, asking for reviews and opinions and taking their feedback into consideration. Anyone in the position in a big business like him has to be very open and welcoming to the public, and introvert would simply fail in making business deals, and getting messages across to the general public about such an innovative company like Tesla that is constantly pivoting. Bezos, on the other hand, is more neutral when it comes to introversion. He shows signs of both traits and cannot be classified as one or the other. Bezos was named Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2010 Executive of the Year, which called out his being ‘adept at quantifying things and looking several steps ahead’.
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Bezos can do things like presenting and publically speak, however, it’s what he does in boardrooms that really set him on the introverted side. Instead of being the center of attention like Elon likes to be, Jeff sits back and just listens to during board meetings, he really likes to take it all in before he makes decisions. The next trait we are going to look at is the Musk and Bezos’ openness to experiences. These two have a very high openness to experience, both have taken risks and were open to change to make their businesses what they are today. Musk and Bezos were also creative and original in their ventures. For example, Musk left his Ph.D. program at Stanford University to found a company called Zip2. The company was sold to Compaq for $20 million. But rather than take the money and retire, Musk once again took a great risk by investing millions of dollars to a company called X.com, which would later merge with another company to form PayPal. Risk is a word that Elon is very familiar with, critics of Tesla always said that an affordable electric car would be impossible. Even at times when his company was on the verge of bankruptcy, he poured his own money into the business to have it continue running. Bloomberg (2014) reported that Musk used all his money he made from selling PayPal into Tesla in order to continue funding for designs and advancements, luckily he was able to take the company and make it what it is today. He has continuously taken huge business risks and continues to do so even with the current deals in negotiation to purchase Solar City. Bezos and Musk are very similar in this metric, Bezos has taken many risks and been open to new experiences. ‘Without a willingness to fail, you cannot innovate because most innovations won’t work’ Amazon expanded from a purely online book business to selling everything that you can think of.
Another good example is Amazon acquiring Zappos.com a lifestyle brand that sells shoes and clothes. The book’s definition of Conscientiousness refers to being punctual, persistent, a willingness to work hard, and the desire to complete tasks correctly. Clearly successful leaders are going to have a higher conscientiousness than the average person. This is fact when it comes to Bezos and Musk, both work very hard and are persistent at what they do. Musk’s persistence can only be highlighted by his desire to make things happen, as stated earlier Musk has poured his own money to keep Tesla going multiple times. Only until recent events have Musk shown disinterest and signs of not being punctual when he wanted to take his company private. Bezos, on the other hand, is known for his punctuality, persistence to innovate, and he is more than willing to work hard. In the early years of Amazon, the executives were curious if it would be worth the cost to do tv ads, they wanted to test out two markets, they chose Portland and Minneapolis, they ran the test for 16 months which is much longer than most companies would experiment but Bezos said that Amazon was ‘unbelievably fixated on it’ and that ‘it was a long expensive test, but we were really determined to understand this for our company once and for all’. This is a true example of his willingness to work hard and his persistence.
The fourth trait that we will be taking a look at is Neuroticism. A person that scores high in neuroticism is more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, and guilt. Jeff Bezos seems like he is in the middle of this trait, he balances his emotions but still has neurotic traits. He is known to push his team with such high demand and intolerance of failure that Amazon has had turnover and burnout. He also likes to be in control of where his ideas go and to be in the center of the action. However, he shows signs of being empathetic with his giving to charity. Whereas, Musk, in contrast, shows lots of neurotic traits. If there is one trait that Musk has taken away from Steve Jobs is that he a bit harsh with his employees. There have been multiple reports that he often lashes out at employees if they are not following his guidelines. Elon often demands impossible tasks and publicly chews out employees who fall short of his goals. ‘It is a must to be at the top of your game especially when making demands from your employees, otherwise these companies would fall short and simply not be the pioneers like we have set ourselves to be’.
Other neurotic behaviors have been shown by Musk in the past months with the fall out of his company, him stepping down from the board, paying the $1million fine to the SEC, and his appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast where he was filmed smoking marijuana. And finally, we will talk about the Bezos and Musk in terms of agreeableness. Agreeableness is broken down into sub parts like; trust, straightforwardness, altruism, and compliance. Bezos and Musk are both the same person when it comes to this metric. They are very trustworthy guys, they are knowledgeable in their field and that is a reason they are leading. Straightforwardness is how they deal with things and once again both are very frank and don’t beat around the bush when it comes to their business. Altruism defined by measures of selflessness, self-sacrifice, generosity, and consideration, courtesy, and concern for others. Once again both rank high in this trait, last spring Bezos said he planned on donating 2 billion to cancer research, education, and homeless efforts. Musk’s recent donation of $15 million went to an XPRIZE program called Global Learning. Bezos and Musk both score lowly on compliance, they tend to be vindictive, and argumentative.
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