Tesla and Atlassian: Signalling a New Business Model?

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Will Tesla and Atlassian lead the way to clean and sustainable energy for Australia? A high-profile back-and-forth on Twitter may signal a new business model that is tied to social and environmental impact.

Ageing infrastructure and reliance on non-renewables has sparked concern about the future of energy in Australia. Power outages in South Australia highlight the need for resolution of energy problems for the state and for the nation.

Tweeting for Impact

In response to these energy woes, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk of Tesla claimed that his company could solve the South Australia energy problem in 100 days. Then, co-founder and CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian replied that his company could find funds for the project and help with navigating the politics.

Since this exchange, Musk has discussed the proposal with Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, as well as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

A New Leadership Model

This recent set of exchanges may signal something new to how social and environmental impact unfold. The leadership literature describes transformational leadership as applied to leading change within their own organisations (e.g., Jack Welch), leading radical product innovations (e.g., Steve Jobs), or leading social movements independent of affiliation with any particular for-profit organisation (e.g., Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.).

Furthermore, while many leaders of for-profit organisations seek to create social and environmental impact, many do so post-retirement and/or through not-for-profit foundations (e.g., Bill Gates).

But a potential alliance between Tesla and Atlassian may provide a unique case in which two very entrepreneurial leaders from two multinational for-profit organisations leverage the full weight of their respective businesses to create social and environmental change. Of course, this will also likely shape up to be a nice business opportunity for both companies.

And there are critical ingredients here that have changed the game: Musk and Cannon-Brookes’s entrepreneurial mindset, access to large amounts of capital, and of course the countless loyal followers and fans who are there at these leaders’ thumb-tips.

A New Business Model

Many have heard of the “triple bottom line” and the idea that organisations should maximise economic, social, and environmental outcomes. So, many companies set up special efforts to meet social and environmental targets alongside their usual economic targets. It looks good and sometimes it feeds back into the business.

But for this potential alliance between Tesla and Atlassian, we may be talking about operating on an entirely different — and higher — level. It’s possible that thanks to the mindset, resources, and social following of the leaders involved, we’re looking at a harmonious alignment among economic, social, and environmental performance. So in this new business model, there’s no need for special initiatives, budgets, or task forces to “give back” to the community or environment. If all goes according to plan, positive social and environmental impact are intimately tied to making a profit.

And if this becomes the new model, profit wouldn’t be such a naughty word. We couldn’t even really say that profit was a reward for doing good. In this new model, profit would simply be the result of doing good.

And that doesn’t sound so bad.

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Header image credit: Matthew Paul Argall.