Well, here we are. Page 365 of the 365-page book that was 2019.

Over the past year, I’ve used this column to put a spotlight on the real-world lessons of emotional intelligence, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly. But when it came to engaging readers, one story stood head and shoulders above the rest.

It had to do with a memo Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent employees about 1:20 am (California time, where Tesla is based). The timing of Musk’s message may not have stood out, except that Tesla’s famous chief executive is a notorious workaholic well known for an extreme work ethic. (Defending his philosophy, Musk once stated that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”)

If you follow this column, you know that I’ve often praised Musk’s ability to communicate with emotional intelligence. After all, he’s inspired employees and consumers alike, and turned Tesla into one of the most valuable auto companies in the world--without ever turning a profit over the course of a full year.

But this memo was different.

After highlighting numerous accomplishments from 2018, Musk announced a new round of job cuts--a necessary cost-cutting measure as Tesla continued to compete "against massive, entrenched competitors.”

And while all of this made sense, it was the next part of the memo that really stood out:

"There are many companies that can offer a better work-life balance, because they are larger and more mature or in industries that are not so voraciously competitive. Attempting to build affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity, but succeeding in our mission is essential to ensure that the future is good, so we must do everything we can to advance the cause."

"We must do everything we can to advance the cause."

What Musk implied with these 10 words is an example of what is known as the "dark side" of emotional intelligence. It involves using knowledge and understanding of emotions to motivate or even manipulate others, in order to achieve a goal.

Musk’s stated goals--which include helping to save the planet--are surely admirable.

But as I wrote in January, “what [Musk is] trying to achieve--namely, getting people to buy into the mission of ‘saving the world’ by working themselves to the bone--simply isn't sustainable. And it's hurting Tesla employees in the process.”

How could Musk could tweak his philosophy to accomplish even more good? I try to answer that question in the original article, which you can read here. (You’ll also find a great example of how Musk used his powers for good down below.)

Here are some of the other top stories readers enjoyed throughout 2019:

Amazon Almost Killed Best Buy. Then, Best Buy Did Something Completely Brilliant

Krispy Kreme Ordered a Student to Stop Reselling Its Doughnuts. His Response Was a Master Class in EQ

It started as a horror story in corporate PR: Krispy Kreme was met with major backlash after shutting down a college student who was reselling their doughnuts to residents who couldn’t travel to stores. 

What followed was a major lesson in entrepreneurship, listening to your customers, and using EQ to save the day.

This Beautiful Anthony Bourdain Quote Is a Masterpiece of Emotional Intelligence

Six years ago, Bourdain ended the series "No Reservations" with one of his trademark epilogues--delivered in the way only he could.

Elon Musk Just Tweeted a Response to Ford's New Electric Mustang Announcement, and It's Most Excellent

In contrast to his earlier memo, this tweet from Musk is one I can get behind. Check out how and why Musk actually roots for his competitors in the electric vehicle space.

Published on: Dec 31, 2019
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