"Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately." Elon Musk tweeted this obvious but also surprising statement to his 77 million followers last week. It's obvious because the war in Ukraine and the resulting U.S. ban on Russian oil and gas imports is driving prices higher and raising worries about scarcity. It's surprising coming from Musk, because he's spent much of his career working to reduce people's use of fossil fuels in the United States and around the world.

The tweet reveals a lot about Musk, both as a leader and as someone who--at least sometimes--displays striking emotional intelligence. Here's his full two-tweet statement:

Here's why it's an impressive lesson in leadership.

1. He's willing to voice an unpopular opinion. 

Elon Musk is not usually friendly to the oil and gas industry. In fact, a few years back, he told an audience that people might need to revolt against the "unrelenting and enormous" political power of the fossil fuel industry, which he said commanded outsized subsidies that gave it an unfair competitive advantage. 

Not only is Musk now advocating for more fossil fuel production, he's taking another unpopular stance and calling for an increase in nuclear energy, saying it was "critical" for Europe to restart its dormant plants and raise production levels at working ones for national and international security. He added that not only is nuclear energy better from a climate-change perspective, but that radiation is not as dangerous as many people think. He offered to go to any location near a nuclear site and "eat locally grown food on TV." 

Why is he saying all this when he's spent decades calling for renewable energy sources? Because he has the confidence and intelligence to know that leadership isn't about sticking to your guns, it's about saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done to address the situation in front of you.

Most observers are speculating that today's sky-high gas prices will drive increased interest in electric vehicles. So it would have been more predictable, and more self-serving, for Musk to use the occasion to tweet something about what a good deal the Tesla Model 3 is, or how it will pay for itself in money not spent at the pump. Instead, he said what needed to be said, acknowledging the truth that, even though his company built almost a million Teslas last year, there aren't enough electric cars to replace even a meaningful portion of the gas ones currently on the road.

2. He has a nuanced understanding of complex issues.

This is almost a super-power in a world that has come to be dominated by simple, black-and-white thinking about almost everything. To most observers, it seems to be a binary choice. Fossil fuels = bad and renewable energy = good. Or, if you're someone who likes muscle cars and oil rigs, then fossil fuels = good and renewables = bad.

But Musk has always understood that it's not that simple. He said a few years ago that if he had the power to instantly stop everyone from using fossil fuels he wouldn't do it. Instead, he explained that, since fossil fuels will inevitably run out someday, it's common sense for humans as a species to wean ourselves off them when we can.

3. He's a pragmatist.

This seems like an odd thing to say about a man planning to colonize Mars. Musk is famous for dreaming big, seemingly impossible dreams. But the tools he uses to make those dreams come true are all about practicality. He learns all he can about a subject and then he experiments, breaking things as needed. From interplanetary travel to tunneling his way under traffic jams, everything Musk sets out to do is based on science and study, which is why it's usually a bad idea to bet against him.

Coming up with a big, bold vision of what you want to do, and then inspiring others to join you in that mission is a leadership skill we often celebrate. We spend a lot less time praising pragmatic leaders who figure out what they must do to solve an immediate problem. As Musk has shown, you need those skills too if you want to turn your big visions into reality.