Emotional Intelligence Case Study: Elon Musk of Tesla Inc.

Emotional Intelligence in leadership can be difficult to find. However, when it is found, especially in executive leadership, the cultures of those companies often follow the tone established by its leaders. Imagine a company culture based on sincere interest and empathy around employees and customers.

Those leaders and companies do exist—Tesla’s Elon Musk is one of them. An article written by Inc. spotlighted an email sent by Musk to Tesla employees regarding the above-average injury rate at Tesla factories. His desire to address the issue head-on, and communicate that to employees, showed great leadership. He showed that he empathized with the challenges faced by his employees. In that letter shared by Inc., Musk states,

No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and doing their best to make Tesla successful. Going forward, I’ve asked every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet with every injured person as soon as they are well, so I can understand what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.

The Inc. article goes on to point out why this email is so significant, stating that “Emotional Intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you instead of against you, is an essential quality of effective leaders. While Musk’s opening words will prove touching to some, it’s his promise to take action that is most powerful.”

Recognize the Importance of Emotion in Business. 

There’s a reason why the best leaders have higher levels of emotional intelligence—the people they lead are emotional beings! In public speaking, emotion is one of the greatest tools an individual can use to captivate his or her audience. In fact, it could be argued that without emotion, a message will likely fail. Why would that not extend to effective leadership? We make decisions based on emotion, we are inspired due to emotion, we act because of emotion; yes, we want facts, but ultimately, our thoughts and choices are driven by emotion.

Not to be confused with being overly emotional, the ability to respect, empathize, connect, and listen to others is part of that “soft” skillset that too often gets overlooked in the corporate world. In fact, Musk himself stated the following in response to the question, “What has been your biggest mistake?” in a Q&A session at SXSW: “The biggest mistake, in general, I’ve made, is to put too much of a weighting on someone’s talent and not enough on their personality. And I’ve made that mistake several times. I think it actually matters whether somebody has a good heart; it really does. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that it’s sometimes just about the brain.”

His biggest mistake? Not looking beyond “hard” credentials sooner, not valuing someone’s level of emotional intelligence as much as perceived “skill.” This is the CEO for two of the most tech-savvy businesses that are built on cutting-edge inventions, requiring the scientific intelligence of so many to execute those ideas.

In the end, your Emotional Intelligence quotient matters. Learn more about how to increase it by visiting, www.chuckgarcia.com/coaching.