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Elon Musk studied Napoleon’s leadership style: Walter Isaacson


Elon Musk has studied the life of Napoleon Bonaparte for leadership inspiration, according to biographer Walter Isaacson.

The billionaire “likes military history” and “believes there are lessons that apply to corporate life” from studying the career of the pint-size French general and dictator, according to Isaacson, who is set to release a biography entitled “Elon Musk” next month.

“He believes that wherever Napoleon was, that’s where his armies would do best. So he liked to show up late at night on the assembly lines at Tesla and SpaceX,” Isaacson said in an interview with Axios published Monday.

Musk has built a reputation as a brilliant but erratic leader while running the show at his various companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, the company formerly known as Twitter, brain chip startup Neuralink and infrastructure firm The Boring Company.

In his book, Isaacson detailed one instance in which Musk spent an hour overseeing work on one of SpaceX’s Starship boosters that was under construction at the private space firm’s launch site in Texas.


Elon Musk “believes there are lessons that apply to corporate life” from studying Napoleon’s military career.
AFP via Getty Images

“If they see their general on the battlefield, they will be more motivated,” Musk reportedly said about the tactic. “I learned that by reading about Napoleon.”

Musk often listens to the popular podcast “Hardcore History” podcast at night, added Isaacson.

Musk praised Napoleon on social media last year, responding to a meme by stating that the general’s “success was in fact due, in part, because he was super fun at parties, spoke and wrote incredibly well!”

Scrutiny over Musk’s leadership style has intensified since his $44 billion takeover of Twitter last year.


Napoleon
Elon Musk has taken inspiration from Napoleon’s life, his biographer says.
Corbis via Getty Images

Since buying the firm, Musk has purged its ranks with mass layoffs, demanded remaining employees adopt an “extremely hardcore” work ethic and ditched Twitter’s iconic blue bird logo in favor of a rebrand to the letter “X.”

Musk is also a vocal critic of remote work — once describing the concept of working from home as “morally wrong.”

He has enacted strict office attendance policies at Tesla and Twitter.

Last month, Esther Crawford, a former Twitter executive who became famous for sleeping on the office floor while scrambling to meet one of Musk’s deadlines, said the billionaire is a dynamic leader but has a “painful” lack of empathy for those around him.


Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson is set to release a book on Elon Musk.
Getty Images

Isaacson, 71, is one of the most prominent biographers, having previously written tomes about the lives of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Apple founder Steve Jobs, among others.

Earlier this week, Isaacson made waves after sharing a screenshot he received from Musk just before 5 a.m. local time on Sunday.

In the texts, Zuckerberg told Musk that the pair should “move on” from their much-hyped “cage match” unless they can set a date for the bout.


Elon Musk
Elon Musk is CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.
REUTERS

Isaacson told Axios that an actual fight between Musk and Zuckerberg “seems unlikely.”

“I obviously think that this whole cage match idea is completely ridiculous,” he added.





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