Testing the vision — Elon Musk’s Powerwall presentation

In a time of change, the best way to make change happen is by inspiring people.

One of the world’s most inspirating leaders is Elon Musk, founder of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX.

As CEO of Tesla, Musk recently negotiated a $55bn bonus-only pay deal. To earn it he will have to grow the company by $600bn (almost the entire value of Amazon or Apple today).

Can he build that much inspiration, within 10 years?

Back in 2015, Musk launched the Tesla Powerwall. One hardened observer called it “the best tech keynote I’ve ever seen.”

The presentation he gave that day provides a good example to test out the seven building blocks of an inspiring vision: are they a useful way to inspire a group of people to support what you want to achieve, or not?

The video reveals that Musk used most of the seven building blocks we recommend:

  1. He spoke in language that was meaningful to his audience:
    Technical at times, he defined customer benefits and used music, lighting, and visual aids that were part of what they expected
  2. He defined the problem he wants to fix:
    Growth in atmospheric CO2
  3. He defined the future he wants to create:
    A fundamental transformation of the way energy is delivered across the earth
  4. He defined the first steps to get there:
    He talks about “a battery that just works” and calls it “The missing piece” — not the whole journey, the missing piece.
    Gigafactories are another key step.
  5. Musk outlined the higher principles or values that his vision supports and upholds:
    “I think we collectively should do something about this. And not try to win the Darwin Award. For us and a lot of other creatures too.”
  6. And he spoke in his own authentic voice:
    Musk is not as polished a presenter as Steve Jobs but he did not try to be anything other than who he is. He achieved all of the above points while being himself, remaining relaxed, joking, and stumbling at times.

He also did a reasonable job of putting the building blocks together to make a story. (And again he did that his way.)

But one building block he didn’t use was that he didn’t ask his audience to make a choice.

He didn’t ask them to decide: will you support us?

He didn’t say,

“Will you place an order for one of these batteries?”


“Will you do whatever else is within your power to help to make our vision for a renewable future a reality?”

We think that if he had he would have got even better results.

What do you think?

And in the work that you do, have you asked yourself and the people who you work with to make the same choice? Are you (all) committed to your work or merely involved? Do you want to change that? What would happen if you did?

Based on Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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