How is Elon Musk as a CEO

rby Zain Jaffer

Love him or hate him, there is no question that Elon Musk is one of the most (if not the most) high profile CEOs in the world today. But how is he as a CEO? Let us evaluate him on several metrics below.

SETTING A BOLD VISION

This is perhaps what really defines Musk. Whether it is making a Model T version of the Electric Vehicle and self-driving ones (Tesla), going to Mars and outer space (SpaceX), mass transportation at bullet speed (Boring), or protecting constitutionally guaranteed free speech (Twitter), there is no other CEO today like him. He can be likened to Steve Jobs or other mavericks who went against the grain to execute their vision.

BEING A TYPICAL CEO

Musk is no typical CEO. His corner office is a sofa in the factory. He does not want large layers of middle management.  He prefers to work directly with those in the factories or those who actually develop the technology and are productive. His BS detector is sharp, as he publicly stated when Sam Bankman Fried claimed he owned shares of Twitter, saying “This dude is bullsh*t.”. Plus not a lot of CEOs get to appear on Saturday Night Live, or to smoke weed on the Joe Rogan podcast.

GETTING TO WORK TO EXECUTE THE VISION

Musk works many long hours every week. In fact he often sleeps in his factories and offices, and is on top of most major issues. He is not there to “take care of his employees” in the modern corporate America sense. He wants to be seen as a hands-on CEO in the field, not isolated from his productive staff in a huge corner office somewhere, even if he can easily afford to.

If you drink the Musk Kool-Aid, you need to drink it all. No half sips, no spills. No Work from Home, no “woke” agendas. You need to embrace him, his long hours on the office or the factory floor, even sleeping in the factory, and his principles to a fanatic hardcore level to survive with him.

GIVING SHAREHOLDERS VALUE

Although Musk’s companies are not part of FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) his company stocks are among the darlings of Wall Street. Many large investors, including Cathie Wood of Ark Capital, swear by him and won’t bet against him. 

Given the bear markets and lack of appetite for risk-on assets like tech stocks due to the Fed interest rate hikes driven by inflation, Musk is perhaps the type of CEO that is needed for many companies to survive. The CEOs who cater to their employees every whim, while popular with the media, might find themselves in a sinking ship.

Though if there is a negative, it is perhaps that some of his impulsive actions might expose his companies to class action lawsuits, such as the ones brought about by the Twitter layoffs .

WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH

Because his nose is on the ground, he receives his updates on the situation from the ground, rather than from layers of staff. He is not afraid to trim excess bureaucracy, as he has done recently with Twitter, laying off around 50% of the workforce and contractors, after his $40bn acquisition. This also merges with his personal belief that a company should be relatively flat, with him (or the CEO) on top directly liaising with the people who actually do the grunt work, instead of the staff.

RALLYING AND SUPPORTING THE FLOCK

This is a matter of opinion and taste. His idea of rallying the flock is to get them to embrace a hardcore attitude towards work, without the frills. Want free food, some colorful rooms with game consoles to relax? Don’t work for a Musk company. Instead try sleeping in the factory to meet a deadline.

Although he said he wouldn’t bet against Musk, former Cisco CEO John Chambers, in a Yahoo Finance interview said that Musk could have handled the Twitter layoffs differently. Chambers said Musk should have showed more care towards Twitter employees instead of ramming the announcement insensitively. “I think he missed an opportunity here, and I think part of their wounds will now be self-inflicted,” said Chambers. 

IN SUMMARY

In summary, Musk is the go-to CEO if you want to achieve results, if a hardcore type of leader is what you need to get to the destination. Musk probably subscribes to the saying that, “if you want a friend, get a dog.” He is not there to be a likeable friend, but to be the boss.