Elon Musk on micromanaging: ‘If you’re trying to make a perfect product, then attention to detail is essential’

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Elon Musk is pushing back on his reputation as a micromanager. The best employees, he says, actually need little management.

“I wouldn’t call it micro management, it’s just insisting on attention to detail,” he said in an interview Monday with Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive of Norway’s wealth fund, which was streamed on Musk’s social media site, X. “If you’re trying to make a perfect product, then attention to detail is essential.”

Walter Isaacson’s biography on Musk depicted the billionaire obsessing over the most minute of decisions, from the design of the Cybertruck to where Twitter put its servers. Musk said on Monday that he hasn’t read Isaacson’s book about him, despite giving the author a front-row seat to how he simultaneously ran six companies over two years.

While most micro-managing bosses don’t consider their actions to be encroaching on employee autonomy, the majority of workers say they have had an overly involved boss during their careers, surveys have found. And Musk is in good company with other demanding bosses like former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

When asked about how to manage his best employees, Musk said: “Smart people, they manage themselves.” Intelligent and talented people can go and work anywhere,  he said, so the way to keep them them happy is to set out goals and let people figure out how to achieve them.

“So I say, ‘Look, this is the goal we’re after and this is what we’re trying to achieve. If you agree with that goal, then let’s try to get it done,’” Musk said, noting that he reserves the right to weigh in and take control when warranted. “Once in a while, you have to say, ‘Guys, you have to trust me on this one.”

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