Execute Faster: Applying Elon Musk’s Aligning Vector Leadership Strategy

Beatriz Boavida
Jan 22, 2024
5 min read

Imagine this scenario (maybe you don’t even have to imagine as this can resonate with your reality): You, alongside your co-founder, built a company from scratch a few years ago. You have successfully managed to navigate challenges, change, and disagreement, and today you own a company with over 100 people. But recently, you have noticed that progress seems to be slowing down.

Where do you go from here? How do you keep bringing A-star results?

This situation is similar to what Hubspot co-founders - Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah - faced a few years ago. Over a conversation with Elon Musk, they realized what the solution might be, as Musk revealed to them one of his leadership strategies:

Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors. Elon Musk

This approach is known as Aligning Vectors, and in this article, we will explore the concept and how you can implement it in your team/organization.

Start by seeing everyone’s contributions as a vector

A vector is a mathematical term that has been described in physics as a quantity that has both magnitude and direction. It is commonly represented by an arrow connecting an initial point A to a point B.

To perceive employees as a vector implies two things:

The sum of all vectors is your team’s momentum

Your team is literally the sum of all its parts.

When you sum everyone up as vectors, you get a new one representing the direction and momentum your company is moving in. And there are three types of new vectors that might result from that sum:

Building maximum alignment in your company involves much more than simply aligning your people. You need to align:

Typically, the smaller the teams, the easier the alignment. Despite that, to make this process smoother, embrace imperfect alignment and disagreement. Also, ask questions instead of making assumptions about how each person feels and perceives their work, goals and role at the company.

Keep in mind that even without new people or extra funding, you can maximize the organization’s progress. The key is aligning the vectors. As Dharmesh Shah mentions “The team that gets 80% of the decisions right, but is 100% aligned will beat the team that gets 100% of the decisions right, but is only 80% aligned”.

3 Steps you can take as a leader to foster alignment

Achieving 100% alignment can feel like work of the Gods or a utopia – we get it. But as a leader, you should aim to achieve the greatest alignment possible. To help you with this, here are 3 easy steps you can implement:

  1. Clearly define or revisit the company’s goals. Guarantee everyone understands what the expectations are.
  2. Set the direction. Understand what your current position is and how you want to grow from there. Be transparent and invite everyone on board.
  3. Make communication effortless. Make sure everyone is up to date on what is going on and what their role is in the process. Consider resorting to digital platforms to make communication more agile.

How to check for impact and progress using aligning vectors

If you wish to assess if the projects your teams are currently developing are on the path to optimal progress and impact, ask these questions:

These inquiries are extremely helpful, especially for underperforming projects. Once you determine the nature of the issues - considering the vectors approach - you can create an action plan to resolve them.

You can even take Musk’s strategy a step further and base your decisions on looking at everything as vectors that need to be aligned – this could be content (e.g. marketing campaigns) that your team is producing, the partnerships your company is building, etc.

Key takeaways

Seeing everyone (and perhaps ultimately everything) as vectors is a bold yet clear perspective that can help you navigate a period of slower progress in your company. To go far, you need to make sure everything is set for success. For Elon Musk, Aligned Vectors is what you should be aiming for.

Make sure you align your employees and leaders to the company’s goals, each team to the company’s goals, and the company’s goals to the needs of the clients.

Foster the greatest alignment possible by:

Remember to prioritize asking questions instead of making assumptions. This could go a long way especially when you are looking to assess if the projects your teams are currently developing are on the path to success.

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