Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk launched a shocking Twitter attack yesterday against Vernon Unsworth, a caving expert who played a role in the rescue mission that saved a youth soccer team from a flooding cave in Thailand. 

Unsworth recently appeared on CNN to criticize Musk's idea of using a mini-submarine to help out in the rescue efforts. Unsworth described the concept as a "PR stunt" and said Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts." 

Musk's response went from bad to worse.

"Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves," Musk tweeted. The famous founder then challenged Unsworth to show the final rescue video, before adding: "You know what, don't bother showing the video. We will make one of the mini sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo."

Musk concluded by accusing by calling Unsworth a "pedo," short for pedophile:

"Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it."

When Twitter users pushed back on Musk's slur, he replied: "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true."

(The Twitter thread, which was widely reported through the media, has now been deleted.)

An Australian news station caught up with Unsworth this morning. When asked if he would consider taking legal action against Musk, Unsworth replied: "Yes. Not finished."

At this point, you might be asking yourself: Why in the world would Musk do something so offensive--and foolish?

It's impossible to say what's going through Musk's mind. Tesla's been facing some heavy pressure lately, and that could definitely be taking its toll.

But after observing Musk's interactions over the past few months, I wonder if he's allowed what seemed to be one of his greatest strengths--emotional intelligence--to gradually become a weakness.

What's EQ got to do with it?

We generally think of emotional intelligence, the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions, as a positive quality. But as I explain in my new book, EQ Applied, it's easy for those with exceptional emotional intelligence to struggle with unexpected challenges. 

How so?

As one's ability to manage and influence emotions increases, it becomes a source of power--and power is dangerous. It can easily fuel other traits like hubris and self-importance. As these traits take root, they can actually begin to hinder other traits of emotional intelligence--like self-awareness and the ability to manage words and actions. 

This is especially dangerous when you hold a position of power, as Musk does.

Traditionally, Musk has leveraged Twitter extremely effectively over the years--using it to communicate directly with customers and employees alike, connecting with them on an emotional level.

But recent actions indicate that Musk has begun to lose perspective.

For example, consider the recent Tesla conference call in which Musk ignored key analysts' questions, referring to the questions as "boneheaded" and "dry." For many, Musk came off as arrogant, disrespectful, and painfully dismissive. He also missed the chance to show potential investors and customers that he sees the big picture and knows what he's doing. (Musk later admitted he missed an opportunity by not answering the questions live.)

This most recent Twitter attack is far worse, causing many to wonder if the pressure is causing Musk to crack.

Here's the thing: None of us can control our emotions perfectly. We all make mistakes, and we'll continue to do so. Show me an "expert" in emotional intelligence, and I'll show you another person who loses their temper or makes an emotionally faulty decision--under the wrong circumstances.

But it's key that you identify those mistakes and treat them as learning experiences. Because it's how you handle these situations that will determine how emotionally intelligent you truly are.

Interestingly, it seems that Musk has identified this weakness. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, he was asked about his recent "toxic" behavior on Twitter, to which he replied:

"I would like to make the point that I never launched an attack on anyone who did not attack me first. So the question is: If somebody attacks you on Twitter, should you say nothing? Probably the answer in some cases is yes, I should say nothing. In fact, most of the time I do say nothing. I should probably say nothing more often.

"I have made the mistaken assumption--and I will attempt to be better at this--of thinking that because somebody is on Twitter and is attacking me that it is open season. And that is my mistake.

"I will correct it."

Published on: Jul 16, 2018
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