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Markets reacted positively yesterday to Elon Musk’s tweet that he would reveal a second Top Secret Masterplan for Tesla this week. Shares for Tesla Motors responded strongly and closed 4% up. Here’s why.

Elon Musk is a quester leader. His quests have inspired NASA to use his SpaceX rockets and thousands of people to buy his Tesla cars and thus joining him on an exciting adventure. Here’s the thing. People are attracted to leaders who want to make a difference, to improve the lives of others. We find their quests inspiring, we are eager to discover how they will overcome seemingly impossible challenges and because leaders on a quest can often be the underdog, we will them to win.

Using Tesla Motors as a conduit, Elon Musk’s central purpose is to “change the world from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” In order to achieve this on the 2 August 2006, Elon Musk revealed his first “Top Secret Masterplan” in a blog and summarised it as a plan to:

  1. Build sports car
  2. Use that money to build an affordable car
  3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
  4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options

Elon Musk’s Top Secret Masterplan provides a great example of how a quest, strategy and purpose can be combined to forge powerful business results.  My research reveals that quest have 3 qualities: Firstly, they have an inspirational outcome focused destination. Secondly, quests challenge the impossible; and, thirdly, they deliver meaningful benefits. Let’s explore this further using Elon Musk’s Masterplan:

  1. A clear, inspirational outcome focused destination. Elon Musk’s quest revealed in his Masterplan was for Tesla Motor’s to build a Roadster “designed to beat a gasoline sports car like a Porsche or Ferrari in a head to head showdown.” Quests are powerful because they provide a clear target destination that act to focus and empower those who heed the leaders’ call. Elon Musk’s quest is very clear there is no ambiguity. His team had a very identifiable and quantifiable target to adventure towards – a battery powered sportscar that can beat petrol guzzling supercars. His quest is also hugely inspirational and it would be very clear when the team at Tesla had achieved this quest.
  2. Challenge the Impossible: When Elon Musk announced that he wanted to build a battery powered car capable of supercar performance, people thought he was just being eccentric and crazy. But he challenged the paradigm of the day and proved the impossible, possible
  3. Deliver meaningful benefits: Quests deliver meaningful benefits to the people who matter most. For Elon Musk and Tesla this was not only their customers but also the broader society and world economy addicted to a hydrocarbon economy.

Many of Musk’s critics argued that an expensive roadster was hardly going to have a beneficial impact on reducing demand for fossil fuel energy, creating a more sustainable economy or even ultimately saving the world. But as Elon Musk said, these critics, “missed the point.” Elon Musk explains that his strategy was to “enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”  The quest to create a Tesla Roadster gave life to Elon Musk’s purpose, empowered his strategy and contributed towards achieving his purpose. Once achieved a new quest continues to inspire and empower creating a virtuous circle of success driving  closer and closer to achieving the higher purpose.

As you can see from the diagram below, each successive quest builds on the success of the previous one. Each quest continues to re-inspire the now 13,000 strong employees working at Tesla (Elon Musk started with 3 employees) and the 400,000 people who have paid up to a £1,000 deposit for the Model 3 which has yet to be manufactured. This has raised Tesla over $400 million in pre-order revenue, an unprecedented success. By striving and achieve the impossible, taking on and disrupt the existing motoring big brands Elon Musk is achieving a lot more than just selling another car in an already saturated market.

Tesla's purpose quest and strategy

Ever the opportunist, as are all good quester leaders, Elon announced the Tesla X, an exciting electric SUV, the same week the VW emissions cheat scandal was uncovered. Each quest has contributed towards bringing Elon Musk’s strategy and purpose to life.

Part One of his Masterplan is now drawing to a close. What can we expect from Part Two? The purpose is likely to remain the same but new quests will most certainly be unveiled. The quests will appear impossible and crazy. They will inspire and empower. They will take Elon Musk closer to achieving his purpose  of changing “the world from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.”

Elon Musk and Tesla benefit from what I call an organisational questing culture. Embarking on quests means that what you are working on:

  1. Contributes to a better working world
  2. Accords meaning and purpose
  3. Attracts & retain talent
  4. Fosters an innovative culture
  5. Empowers teams
  6. Attracts loyal customers
  7. Builds competitive advantage

Building a questing culture is an immensely powerful leadership approach. A questing culture is something competitors can not copy, it’s why Tesla and Elon Musk are separate and ahead of the pack.

Elon Musk’s Top Secret Masterplan Part 2 will be revealed this week. Don’t tell anyone.

TomorrowToday Global