This is as good a definition as you will get.
Like almost anything about the company, Tesla’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting is, well, different. First, people are actually present.
Yes, I know, there are people who attend shareholder meetings for other public companies, but those people usually exist because they are paid to be there. They are not noisy, and they usually don’t cheer when the CEO of the company comes on stage. Oh, and those meetings don’t usually take place on the gigafactory floor.
The Tesla Annual Meeting, on the other hand, is. And, the room is usually full of Tesla owners who also happen to own Tesla shares because it gives them the privilege of shouting questions to Elon Musk. After all, that was the reason they came.
Yes, they can vote on proposals, but if you’ve ever watched a live broadcast of one of these meetings, you wouldn’t understand that the people who were there came to run a bit of shareholder democracy. They are there because they are big fans.
The climax, obviously, was when Musk took to the stage. Whenever he opened his mouth, his speech was usually a stream of consciousness—meaning he could say anything. For example, Musk hinted that the next version of the company’s Full Self Driving beta software might jump from 10.12 to 10.69, for no other reason than to make a rude joke.
Musk also detailed highlights from last year, but before all that, he said something interesting. In fact, it was the first thing he said when he came on stage:
“It’s been an amazing year, the Tesla team has done an amazing job,” Musk said. “Being able to work with a very talented group of people and to create a great product and produce that product and deliver it to people and make people happy out of that product — that’s one of the best things in life.”
After all, Tesla is an extraordinary company. There are now more than 3 million Tesla electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. That means a lot considering that most of its competitors – at least, those currently shipping original cars – count shipments in three or four digits.
Lucid, for example, just said it would miss its 20,000-vehicle delivery target this year. Now expect to ship 7,000, at most. Tesla shipped over 200,000 last quarter alone.
I think it’s worth noting that–before talking about the company’s achievements–the first thing he does is give credit to the people who work at Tesla. Undoubtedly, the company would not be as successful as it is today without the work these employees have put in, and they deserve to hear their leaders admit it publicly.
To be fair, Tesla has received a lot of criticism over claims of discrimination and ill-treatment of employees. Musk himself has faced rejection from employees of his leadership as well as his public battle with Twitter, which he said he would buy before stepping down.
However, if you look past all the distractions, there’s a pretty strong leadership lesson here. Every startup starts with an idealistic vision to do something meaningful. This is the fuel that helps young companies gain traction.
However, somewhere along the way, “the best thing in life” changed to “let’s find out how to last long enough to ship.” That’s not a criticism, building a company is very difficult. Musk himself isn’t shy about the struggles Tesla is facing, once saying that shipping the Model 3 nearly bankrupted the company.
I really think that’s why Musk pointed to his team. There’s something about climbing out of a hole that makes you appreciate the people you climb with.
That’s why, despite all the distractions, it’s worth paying attention to the lessons here. The best thing in life, according to Musk, is building things that make people happy with the team you love. I think that’s a pretty good definition.
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