Elon Musk studied Napoleon’s leadership style: Walter Isaacson

According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Elon Musk studied the life of Napoleon Bonaparte for inspiration as a leader.

The billionaire “likes military history” and “believes there are lessons for corporate life from delving into the career of the diminutive French general and dictator,” according to Isaacson, who will publish a biography titled “Elon Musk” next month.

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

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

In his book, Isaacson describes a case where Musk spent an hour overseeing work on one of SpaceX’s Starship launch vehicles, which was under construction at the private space company’s launch site in Texas.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk “believes there are lessons for corporate life from examining Napoleon’s military career.”
AFP via Getty Images

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

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

musk praised Napoleon on social media Last year, he responded to a meme by saying that part of the General’s “success was actually due to him being super funny at parties, speaking and writing incredibly well!”

Since his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last year, Musk’s leadership style has come under more scrutiny.

Elon Musk was inspired by Napoleon’s life, says his biographer.
Corbis via Getty Images

Since buying the company, Musk has purged his ranks with mass layoffs, demanded an “extremely tough” work ethic from the remaining employees, and ditched Twitter’s iconic blue bird logo in favor of renaming it to the letter “X.”

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

He has strict office attendance policies at Tesla and Twitter.

Last month, Esther Crawford, a former Twitter exec who became famous for sleeping on the office floor while struggling to meet one of Musk’s deadlines, said the billionaire was a dynamic leader but had a “painful” lack of have empathy for those around you.

Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson will publish a book about Elon Musk.
Getty Images

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

Earlier this week, Isaacson caused a stir after he shared a screenshot he received from Musk just before 5 a.m. local time on Sunday.

In the lyrics, Zuckerberg told Musk that the pair should “give up” their much-touted “cage fight” unless they could set a date for the fight.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk is CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.

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

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


DUSTIN JONES is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DUSTIN JONES joined USTimeToday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with DUSTIN JONES by emailing dustinjones@ustimetoday.com.

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