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Elon Musk Learned This Strategy from Napoleon to Keep His Employees 'Motivated' In a highly anticipated new biography by Walter Isaacson, Musk talks about how he applies the French leader's lessons to his business.

By Jonathan Small

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Elon Musk is a self-proclaimed history buff.

"He likes military history," Walter Isaacson, the author of a much-anticipated Musk biography, told Axios. "He believes there are lessons that apply to corporate life."

One of his inspirations was Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military genius who rose to power during the French Revolution and became Emperor of France.

Isaacson points to one leadership strategy Musk learned from reading about Bonaparte.

"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.

Related: 'We Can All Agree Elon Isn't Serious': Mark Zuckerberg Slams Elon Musk as Feud Continues

Sharing the battlefield

For example, while engineers were building a Starship booster at the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, Musk hung around the area for an hour, observing.

"If they see their general on the battlefield, they will be more motivated," Musk told Isaacson.

This may also explain why Musk spends so much time in the 'X' offices. According to an article in the BBC, Musk has installed beds in Twitter's San Francisco headquarters so that he can sleep there.

According to employee Dolly Singh, Musk slept on the office floor at SpaceX.

"Elon wants to live in a world where he works 80 hours a week," she said. "It's OK for him to say, 'I expect you to work as hard as me,' because he's not phoning it in from the beach, he's sleeping in a sleeping bag on the factory floor."

About the new biography

The intimate, new biography entitled Elon Musk will drop on September 12. Isaacson, who also wrote bestselling biographies of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci, spent two years shadowing Musk. He was given unprecedented access, attending meetings with him and joining him for walks around his factories. He also spent hours interviewing him, his family, friends, coworkers, and adversaries.

About the cage match

Oh, and speaking of Musk's adversaries, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly one, as evidenced by all the talk about a cage match between the two billionaires.

But Isaacson told Axios he thinks talk of Zuckerberg fighting Musk in a cage match "is completely ridiculous."

A few days ago, he shared a screenshot of a text exchange between Musk and Zuckerberg, making the fight seem like it won't happen anytime soon.

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Founder, Write About Now Media

Jonathan Small is an award-winning author, journalist, producer, and podcast host. For 25 years, he has worked as a sought-after storyteller for top media companies such as The New York Times, Hearst, Entrepreneur, and Condé Nast. He has held executive roles at Glamour, Fitness, and Entrepreneur and regularly contributes to The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, Maxim, and Good Housekeeping. He is the former “Jake” advice columnist for Glamour magazine and the “Guy Guru” at Cosmo.

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