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Posts & articles that have helped thousands build performance through pragmatic leadership.

3 Leadership Lessons From Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla isn’t a trendy green car company in California–he’s one of the 20th century’s greatest inventors and scientists. Thanks to him we have, among many other things, AC electricity, wireless communication, radio, x-ray tubes, robotics, and the basics of laser technology.

Tesla’s innovations are, in most part, due to his genius and his sharp mathematical mind. Yet, beneath that we can see Tesla had a vigorous work ethic combined with a simple modesty and the ability to persuade investors to back his revolutionary projects. Surely Tesla can teach us a few things about pushing through an innovative agenda:

1. Work While Your Competition Fights: Tesla and Thomas Edison were both working on rival electric power distribution systems. Edison, promoting DC power distribution, set off on a campaign to scare Americans….(and video!) into thinking Tesla’s powerful AC power distribution system was too dangerous. Edison went about killing stray animals with powerful AC currents and he ended his bizarre campaign by killing an escaped elephant from Coney Island Zoo with Tesla’s favorite current. In the end, Tesla and his AC electric distribution system won out owing to its practically and wider application. If you have a better agenda–don’t waste your energy defending it against left-field attacks; let your actions speak for themselves.

2. Results Before Legacy: We all know the story of Thomas Edison–yet when Tesla’s name is aired, eyebrows generally raise quizzically. Tesla wasn’t impervious to vanity–he wanted to be rewarded for his work and he especially wanted Edison to acknowledge his contributions to their shared field. However, Tesla chose a modest road and life. He had the opportunity to collect a large pension, funded by the businesses he helped propel, but instead he chose to live on a small pension and live in a small NYC hotel room while he continued to work. He let his passions and interests guide him and didn’t work to meet the expectations of others.

3. Mad Scientists (Outliers) Aren’t Always Mad: In the early 20th century dreaming up laser technology capable of thwarting aerial attacks most likely seemed crazy–especially, if it came from a heavily-accented Serbian who suffered from handicapping OCD and hallucinations. However, Tesla’s ideas are being implemented to this date and are giving today’s politicians plenty of headaches. If an idea sounds preposterous, there is every chance it is–look for the plausibility in every idea.



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