A new book claims that Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter owner Elon Musk studies leadership insights from French dictator Napolean Bonaparte.
- Walter Isaacson is the author of Elon Musk, a new biography set to release on September 12.
- He tells Axios that Musk studies military leaders like Napoleon for leadership insight.
- “He likes military history,” says Isaacson. “And he believes there are lessons that apply to corporate life.”
- Echoing Napoleon’s tendency to lead his armies on the battlefield, Musk recently assisted at the SpaceX launch site in Texas, saying, “If they see their general on the battlefield, they will be more motivated.”
Why It’s Important
As Isaacson argues, Elon Musk is a sizable fan of history and someone who believes in learning from the past to apply the lessons of history to himself and his work. Musk reportedly regularly listens to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast and says he studies World War I in his spare time.
Musk says that he prefers to be hands-on and lead from the front, a tendency he says, “I learned that by reading about Napoleon.”
Napoleon Bonaparte was a prominent French military leader who ceased power as the dictator of France in the aftermath of the French Revolution. He would lead a conquest across Europe, sparking the Napoleonic Wars, and crowning himself Emperor of Europe from 1796 to 1814. His military campaign cost the lives of 3.2 million to 6.5 million Europeans—culminating in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo with nearly 200,000 casualties and his exile to the island of St. Helena.
As we previously reported, Musk’s reputation as a leader precedes him. He is a visionary genius who has helped innovate the fields of electric cars and space flight. At the same time, he is infamous for being ill-tempered, demanding, and chaotic behind the scenes. Musk is changing the world for the better, but his leadership style makes it difficult for all but his most dedicated followers to be employed by him.
A recent thread from former Twitter product manager Esther Crawford revealed that Musk is charming, highly focused, and inspirational but also unpredictable, unempathetic, and prone to mood swings. Additionally, his leadership style created an intense cult of personality and an office atmosphere of paranoia and dread.