Delegation and Other Secrets of Success by the Example of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk

Delegation and Other Secrets of Success by the Example of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk

Umbrella IT


Truly successful leaders are not afraid to delegate, but they also know when they need to take matters into their own hands. When a serious problem appears, they increase their involvement in a project.


In this article, we will tell you about two brilliant businessmen who have achieved success in part due to the successful delegation and their unconventional vision. It's about Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.


Steven Paul «Steve» Jobs

A world-famous revolutionary of the IT-era, a founder of Apple and Pixar, and a motivational speaker. Many people think that Steve Jobs was an authoritarian leader, even a tyrant who adhered to a rigid hierarchy, but this is nothing more than a myth.




Sometimes Steve Jobs could be very rude and cruel - but this was only at first glance. It is not that he didn’t take kindly to something that did not correspond to his vision, but rather expected a reasonable reaction as to why a proposed solution was the most correct and deserved attention. Steve could be compared to Shaolin Temple master, which beat monks with a stick so that they wouldn’t be lazy. This man had a powerful inner core.

"My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better" ( Fortune, February 2008).

Steve was not a stranger to the delegation, on the contrary – for this purpose, he was looking for creative people who tried to do something great. Steve was looking for courageous enthusiasts who did not hide from challenges under a bed of unfulfilled dreams.


Steve Jobs believed that delegating implied the following:

  • not to make distinctions between people;
  • to be honest with employees and yourself;
  • not to complicate the distribution of tasks;
  • if you need great achievements, then you need a team;
  • to distribute key tasks within a small team.


Steve Jobs delegated responsibility

Of course, focusing on what matters is easier said than done. Jobs's efforts were aimed at building a system, where each employee could prove himself in the best way, while remaining a part of a close-knit team working in unison - in the rhythm of great achievements, without being distracted by anything unnecessary or unrelated to his responsibilities.

During work meetings Jobs distributed tasks in the following way: he would assign a task and a person responsible for it. The idea was to use delegation in order to make everyone deal with their own tasks/jobs.

Jobs believed that everyone should work on what he is supposed to do and not have to worry about anything else.

The structure of these work meetings was extremely simple and included 2 components:

1. Action List

2. Directly Responsible Individual - DRI

Thus, the work meetings prevented confusion among employees. The work process was structured, and actions of colleagues were synced with each other.

Steve carefully thought through each step, he adhered to minimalism, believing that the most optimal solutions consisted primarily in not doing unnecessary things, in other words, he preferred quality in everything.

The approach of Steve Jobs could be expressed in the phrase "Wisdom is always in simplicity."


In order to do your best work, you need to stop multitasking ("I am everything, everywhere and immediately, myself") and concentrate on one task at a time.


Great things done by a team of people

In Steve's team, there were people who were not afraid to talk about their ideas and bring innovations, Steve did not always agree with them; however, sometimes Jobs actually changed his mind on some issues.

For example, at first, Steve wanted to focus his attention on a iMovie project, but later the team could convince its leader that the most optimal solution would be to direct all efforts to develop iTunes and it was the right choice because the digital music was actually much more in demand. And there were many similar examples in life of the company.

"Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people" (60 Minutes, 2003)

Steve Jobs was surrounded by true professionals, who not only helped translate his brilliant thoughts from the world of ideas into the world of IT-technology era; people in Jobs' team also assisted him in resolving issues (e.g., financial plan) he wasn’t good at while Steve just stood aside.

In 1995, during his speech at the Smithsonian Institution, Steve Jobs mentioned that John Sculley, ruined Apple in his opinion - he ruined it by bringing a wrong set of values to the employees. It means that delegation itself is colorless. Very much depends on a leader of a company, who drives the energy.




Steve was an extremely unconventional person and delegated outside our usual ideas about this phenomenon. First of all, Steve delegated not powers, but energy.

The success of this remarkable businessman was not just in his charisma and prominent leadership qualities. Steve put together a great team around him. Well-known Apple logo, for example, was created not by Steve, the author of this famous logo is Rob Janoff. Thanks, delegation!




Some employees of the company did, as they said, impossible things, marveling that Steve was eventually right. This happened when Steve Jobs offered Steve Wozniak to develop a design of an arcade game Breckout over a few days. Steve Jobs knew that the impossible was possible!


Steve Jobs on recruiting



In 1996, during his interview with Terry Gross, Steve Jobs mentioned Apple's corporate culture; Steve's company chose a unique path, its corporate structure was much more collegial than hierarchical.

Steve called his employees great people and gave them the opportunity to be proactive.

… And a lot of companies - I know it sounds crazy - but lot of companies don’t do that. They hire people to tell them what to do, we hire people to tell us what to do.

In his interview with BusinessWeek (October 12, 2004), Steve Jobs noted that it was essential to screen out unnecessary things to focus on something truly important. Steve created “the system with no system," but it was not a chaos, just no dogmas; company's staff were inexorable enthusiasts!

...The source of innovations are people: those who meet in corridors or call each other 10:30 p.m. either to share a new idea or because they have found the way to solve the existing issue. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.


Who should and shouldn’t you work with?

At a certain stage, Steve and his team thought, Oh! We gonna be a big company! They went and hired a bunch of professional management but it didn't work out all well. Most of them were bozos, they knew how to manage but they didn't know how to really do anything! So, Steve Jobs believed that you should not work with someone you couldn’t learn anything from.

"You know what's interesting? You know who the best managers are? They are the great individual contributors who never ever want to be a manager, but decide they have to be the manager because no one else is gonna do a job as good as them".

Steve Jobs respected his employees, calling them great people. And you know why? Because he hired great people! Steve was indifferent to the spiritless and lacking initiative "professionals."

To get into the company of Steve Jobs, people had to have on tips of their fingers and in their passion, understand the latest technologies and wanted to bring that to lots of people.

Steve considered that the most important job of someone like himself was recruiting. Steve Jobs had a vision, which he shared with a small team of 10 people.

The greatest people are self-managed - they don’t need to be managed. Once they know what to do, they will figure out how to do it. They don’t need to be managed at all. What they need is a common vision. And that’s what leadership is.


What was the main Steve Jobs' secret?

Steve just followed his intuition, breaking conventions, hierarchies and letting the best ideas to win. He hired great people who wanted to create super great products, formed great teams, delegating to them some of his powers, keeping the process simple. In doing so Steve was super honest.

The most important thing for Steve was to create high-quality products that helped make the world better, Steve respected his customers. Everything else was secondary to him.

Steve Jobs was well-versed in people and delegation of authority, he was a man of a different consciousness, and not everyone understood this.


"Steve is the best delegator I’ve ever met”, - Ron Johnson, a former of the Apple retail. 


Elon Reeve Musk

A well-known businessman of the 21st century, an inventor, and an investor. The most famous Elon’s projects are SpaceX, Tesla, and Hyperloop, Elon Musk is also a founder of Paypal.




Elon Musk is convinced that it is important to have emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, which is an essential quality of effective leaders. The more empathy is developed in a person, the more he is developed emotionally.


Elon Musk believes that when delegating it is necessary to:

  • be able to prioritize;
  • free yourself from routine work;
  • avoid isolation;
  • pay attention to employees' problems;
  • allow employees to look for problems themselves.


Elon Musk about Profitable investments

Musk believes that the main thing is to act, and this is power. For any director (CTO or CEO), it is very important to find time to personally meet each disgruntled (dissatisfied) employee, to understand the essence of the problem to eliminate its consequences and prevent it from repeating.

According to Musk, staff should know that their manager cares about them not only in words but in deeds, always ready to protect them. When a manager spends time with a disgruntled team member to understand the heart of a problem, or better understand the situation, good things happen. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but it's very motivating.

Unfortunately, only a few managers are ready to make such investments, they simply do not understand how important it is.


Elon Musk suggests you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. What are the biggest challenges in my team?

2. What can I do to improve the situation?

If you can answer both of these questions and monitor their resolution, then it does not matter what position you have. Your colleagues will be ready to follow.


The ability to delegate responsibility is a part of effective leadership. Thanks to his success, Musk has certainly earned the trust of investors.


How Elon Musk works for 100 hours a week for more than 15 years?

Elon Mask is a person who works 7 days a week. For many, it still remains a mystery: how does he manage to work on several major projects at once? You surely know the answer, it is simple - it's all about the ability to distribute your efforts and also to delegate tasks.


How does Musk find time for Tesla?



Elon Musk is a very versatile person and instead of getting bogged down in the swamp-isolation of one specialization - he studies various industries, finding something common in the nature of each one of them.

Interesting fact: Elon Musk has had a wonderful habit - to read 2 books a day (on different topics) since his early childhood.

All this helps Elon to understand not only the essence of different business spheres but also the mentality of his employees, which leads to the best distribution of tasks. Additionally, Musk emphasizes that employees should take the initiative, identifying key problems.

Musk’s life is balanced; he distributes his efforts channeling them to various projects - SpaceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Neuralink, and Boring Company. In a sense, it is a kind of delegation of the entrepreneur's main stream of energy into priority projects.

According to Musk, at one time he had to work more than 100 hours a week (in fact, it were 168 working hours per week), nowadays Musk works from 80 to 90 hours per week.

During an annual meeting of Tesla shareholders in early June this year, Musk said that 90 percent of his time was divided between SpaceX and Tesla, and less than 10 percent was everything else.


One of the main secrets of Elon Musk



One of Elon’s secrets is "archiving". According to Elon, you can combine several tasks together. This is known as "batching" – for example, responding to emails on your smartphone while sitting in a sauna listening to relaxing music while drinking a glass of vegetable juice.

Interesting fact: Elon Musk spent time with his children during his work, even when they did not demand his attention.

"What I find is I’m able to be with [my kids] and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time … If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get my job done", - Elon said in an interview.


Musk found the balance between his family and business.

At the IT-era, work can be done on a mobile device and apparently, email is a very significant tool for Elon. Musk says that when he works on Space-X and Tesla, he spends most of his time on email.

"I do a lot of email – very good at email. That’s my core competency", -  jokes Elon Musk.


Who can you delegate to?

  • To a computer!

Automatization is a key to success! Musk tries to automate a maximum number of tasks that he does not like to do very much, this allows making the work more interesting. In a word, this can be called the delegation to computer programs that perform all the monotonous routine work.

  • To a team!

The most valuable resource of a company is its employees! Elon says that often there is a bucket of work to be done, but one might like only a few things out of the bucket, whereas someone in your team may be a person who is capable of taking care of the other things. It is often better to sort the buckets first and divide the tasks selecting most suitable people to handle each of them.

Elon Musk believes that everyone is his own savior. It is important to realize that your manager will not do everything instead of you. Some supervisors are very capable of doing their tasks by themselves & sometimes they help to solve some difficult issues, but it is very important that employees are not infantile, and then they can always be relied on.


At the end of the article, we would like to accentuate your attention to the following key points:

  • Only you know your problems better than anyone else, and if you can successfully manage the tasks delegated to you, then you are really very professional.
  • The sky is the limit. Do not limit yourself only to specialized books about your business and it will make your thinking more flexible.
  • Do not rush - the delegation of authority to a wrong chosen person will not bring the awesome results you expected.
  • Work with enthusiasts! A person can become a coolest professional in his business, even if he has no one "diploma" in this sphere (sometimes it happens).
  • Strive for simplicity - multitasking dumped on one person leads to chaos.


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