Although they're different in several ways, self-made billionaires like Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and Elon Musk share the skill of champion problem-solving. Leaders who have made most, or all, of their own wealth tend to share one habit when it comes to creating change--and it's not just taking on the big challenge in the first place. It's a commitment technique they use in the solution stage.
Here are three examples. See if you can spot the move:
1. Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation are committed to reducing the world's child mortality rate. When Gates wanted to find out why so many newborns die in developing countries, he personally advocated for and attended the autopsy of a newborn child.
When Elon Musk was behind on Tesla Model X production, he moved his desk to the end of the production line and stashed a sleeping bag in the closest conference room. Musk said, "I move my desk around to wherever the most important place is in the company at that time.... I suspect probably by the end of this quarter most of my time will not be spent on the factory floor." He's committed to preventing the disasters he fears can destroy the human race, like reliance on nonrenewable energy, overpopulation, and superhuman A.I.
Last week, in one example of a public stand among many, President Donald Trump made remarks and tweets about how fed up he is with the media. The same day, the White House barred media like CNN and The New York Times from a press briefing. President Trump is firm in his conviction that the status quo needs shaking up to "Make America Great Again," and no accepted tradition of his office is out of bounds.
The common thread? An unflinching public commitment to the goal.
It's not just anyone who can lead a team. But it takes a uniquely powerful leader to lead change. Sometimes it's not enough to tell people to get it done, even when you're the person in charge and your people are behind you. It's not enough to create the plan, the goals, and the metrics, and then go home and hope. When they want to create significant change or change that hasn't happened before, self-made billionaires commit in ways that are raw, personally uncomfortable--and very public.
They are tough on themselves personally, and that raises the reality bar around them.
When they commit, they open themselves to criticism, potential embarrassment, and even failure by taking public stands on the issues that matter to them. It's a line in the sand their teams and their followers can easily find--and so can their critics.
Next time you're facing a challenge, ask yourself, "Am I publicly, unflinchingly, showing my commitment?"
Can people see this is all you care about getting done right now?
If you are fully behind the change you want to make in the world, the evidence and experience of self-made billionaires shows that you make it much more likely it will happen. Of course, there's no guarantee--and that's why strong, uncomfortable, public commitment is so powerful.
Can you think of other examples of outrageous personal commitment that inspire you?
This approach isn't just for self-made billionaires but for anyone who's chosen to lead a charge. Think about Martin Luther King and the march from Selma to Montgomery. See Rosa Parks staying in her seat on a public bus. There is something extraordinarily powerful about public, personal, unflinching commitment. Over time, it's one of your best tools to change the world. Use it wisely.