Regardless of what you think of Elon Musk, I think we can all agree he fits whatever definition of successful you might come up with. Sure, he's controversial. Yes, he has a habit of getting in trouble for his Twitter habit. He also happens to make frequent promises that bear little relationship to reality.
Still, it would be hard to argue he hasn't been successful. Not only is he the wealthiest person on earth--but he also managed to do something that no one else has: Make electric vehicles a thing people actually buy. Also, Tesla, where Musk is CEO, is the most valuable car company in history. That's a big deal considering that making money selling cars is difficult, even for companies that have been doing it for 100 years.
I mention all of that because--despite what many might call failings--Musk also happens to have one trait every successful person should copy. For that, we turn to Twitter, of course.
Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a response to an article pointing out that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket had flown more successful missions than any other in history. Musk's response was just four words: "Congrats SpaceX Falcon Team."
SpaceX is the rocket company that Musk founded. It also happens to be the second-most-valuable private company in the world, worth around $100 billion. On both counts, the company's track record of successful missions and its valuation, that's pretty successful.
It would be easy to dismiss Musk's tweet as a platitude, except Musk has a habit of this type of public praise for his team. That's the point--it's a habit. He does it regularly.
Look, I have no idea what it's like to work for Musk or either of his most well-known companies. I'm sure there are plenty of stories of people who feel they weren't treated fairly. I'm not advocating for his character; I'm highlighting one specific aspect of his behavior that every leader should copy: Be gracious at the top.
What does that mean? It means being generous with your praise, especially in public. It means giving more than you might otherwise think you should--because you know that any time you invest your time and resources, you have the ability to make an impact.
More than that, when you're successful, you should be gracious to those around you simply because you can. Success affords you a lot of opportunities to affect the lives of the people around you, and the truth is that it costs you almost nothing to be gracious to them.
On the other hand, the benefit is huge. The more gracious you are, the more motivated your team is to continue to do the things that contributed to your success in the first place. That's an important point, your success is always dependent on the team around you. That doesn't diminish your accomplishment at all. It just means you can afford to be gracious.
To be completely clear, I'm not suggesting that all highly successful people behave this way. I'm suggesting they should. They should make it a habit to be generous. People who lead teams or companies should be gracious to the people they work with and the people who work for them. So should everyone, for that matter.