When Elon Musk entered the 'lion's den' seven years ago, his response was remarkable
Elon Musk isn't afraid to ruffle some feathers. An example? Picking Germany as the location for Europe's Gigafactory was, indeed, a bold move — a prime example of his audacious style. And why not? If we want to see electric cars everywhere, it's imperative that the big automakers in Germany (Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes) get a stark reminder right in their back yard that EVs are the future.
Above: Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Flickr: Tesla Owners Club Belgium)
There are countless examples of Elon's brash style on display. He just launched the all-new Tesla Model S Plaid. Elon emphasized "this car crushes" — a not-so-subtle reference to those gas-powered million-dollar supercars who might dare to challenge it.
"We’ve got to show that an electric car is the best car, hands down,” Musk said. “It’s got to be clear sustainable energy cars can be the fastest cars, the safest cars, [and also] can be the most kick-ass cars in every way."
Over the years, however, there's one particular Elon Musk moment that really stands out in my memory. It also appears to have struck a chord with Jeff Haden at Inc. Magazine. According to Haden, "In 2014, Musk was interviewed onstage at the Oslo Oil and Gas Summit, an industry conference for — yep — leaders in oil and gas." Talk about entering the lion's den!
To put it lightly, the fossil fuel executives in attendance were "far from primed to welcome a person actively seeking to make their industry obsolete."
The interviewer's first question: "What kind of threat do you think you are to the oil and gas industry?"
Elon's answer: "I don't think we're much of a threat." Then, he pauses, smiles, and adds, "yet."
What happens from that point on is something Haden calls "the perfect way to respond to criticism," and, "a lesson in emotional intelligence."
"Musk knows the audience is smart. Yet he also understands they're emotionally invested in the subject. So he doesn't insult their intelligence. He doesn't attack their profession," explains Haden.
Instead, "he subtly invites them to be included in the solution." How? "Common ground. Basic principles. Inclusion. A little self-deprecation thrown in for good measure. That's how you respond to people who don't agree with you."
"Even the strongest differences in opinion still [tend to] have more things in common than we think. Finding those commonalities, in a calm, emotionally intelligent way, is where change — on both sides — starts to happen," writes Haden.
Watch the video below to see how Elon Musk "in the hottest of seats" was able to deftly get his point across and, hopefully, move some fossil fuel execs just a little bit closer to envisioning a clean energy future that they (too) can help move forward.