The Ultimate Leadership Lesson From Elon Musk

The Delaware Court of Chancery recently ruled that Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk will be heard in October during a 5-day trial. This is in spite of objections from Musk’s counsel, who argued the case is much too complex and that they needed more time. This seems to be a big setback for Musk and might foretell real trouble for him. Even one of the world’s wealthiest people would have trouble with a multi-billion dollar judgment against him. I am mostly a fan of Musk, but the buy Twitter idea always seemed to me to be an ill-advised ego-driven distraction. 

Importantly, though, there may be a leadership lesson here. The more successful you get, the more people will tell you how great your ideas are. Here’s the thing: not all of them are. It takes a great deal of humility and self-awareness to surround yourself with people who think differently than you and will push back on ideas that need real vetting. 

Contrast Musk with Ray Dalio, billionaire investor, founder of Bridgewater Associates, and author of one of my favorite books, Principles. He writes of the importance of building a team that is comfortable with conflict and with challenging each other, and he cautions against the many dangers of confirmation bias. 

Bottom line: beware of the sycophant, and work purposefully to build strength in the diversity of perspectives around you. You’ll increase your chances of never seeing the Delaware Court of Chancery on a speedy 5-day trial. And that’s a good thing!