While speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Tesla’s Board Chair Robyn Denholm provided some rare insights about how it is like to work alongside an ambitious innovator like CEO Elon Musk.
Denholm rose as Tesla’s Chair of the Board following Elon Musk’s run-in with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last year, which was triggered by the CEO’s announcement on Twitter that he was looking to take the electric car maker private at $420 per share. Musk eventually settled with the SEC, paying a fine and agreeing to step down from being the Chair of Tesla’s Board of Directors.
During her talk, Denholm explained that she does not expect normalcy at Tesla, especially considering that the company is being led forward by one of the most notable innovators in the industry today. Overall, the Tesla Chair stated that she actually enjoys working in the electric car maker.
“It’s a joy to be working in that environment. There are very few people in the world like Elon, and the world needs more of them. In this world, you can’t be a disruptor part of the time. You can either be a disruptor and innovator as an individual or not. I don’t expect normalcy in that environment whether it’s Elon or one of the other innovators I’ve worked with,” she said.
While Denholm did not provide any specifics about her day-to-day tasks at Tesla, she maintained that the changes being ushered in by the company are becoming more and more evident. This, Denholm explained, was one of the joys of working at the electric car maker.
“You can see the progress. Nobody, 15 years ago, was thinking about electric vehicles or sustainable energy with batteries. Today, the fact that the rest of the industry is moving that way is phenomenal. That would not have happened without Elon,” she said.
DreamWorks Animation’s previous Chair, Mellody Hobson, noted that there is a certain dynamic that one can feel in a company that is run by founders such as Elon Musk. According to Hobson, founders tend to be unconventional and break rules as they go, but they also require to have people around them that are strong enough to challenge them as they see fit.
“Founders are rule-breakers, they’re not-conventional in their thinking. They tend to be extraordinarily open-minded but also very, very strong-willed. You have to stand up for yourself. They don’t want a bunch of ‘yes’ people around them. You have to be able to challenge them in your own way, but they’re also used to getting their own way,” she said.