• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • I don't disagree sharp business leaders need to be tough and incisive, and that means play all kinds of power roles as part of their arsenal of leadership tools. My remark was relative to reading the article on how he fired a man with a provocative knee jerk reaction, without even giving him a chance to understand what was going on, what he wanted him to look at or do. To me, the story (if accurate) depicted a weak personality with deep flaws & fears as if he really needed a cat to kick that evening, and he did so just because he can.

    • My remark was relative to reading the article on how he fired a man with a provocative knee jerk reaction,

      I completely see your point from the engineer’s perspective. It was his first job, he’d been working 13 hour days, a very powerful man was yelling at him and when the engineer asked an innocent question, Musk fires him.

      I do have a different perspective. I wouldn’t work for Musk, but I do know from working for bosses who reported directly to C-suite executives what their expectations often are. You have to be insanely prepared for any meeting with them, regardless of whether it’s a planned meeting or impromptu on an elevator ride. Don’t waste their time and get to the point with answers.

      Back in the day when I was traveling, I worked on a project that two other project managers failed to complete and I was basically called in to try to fix the problems, build up a demoralized onsite team, and complete it in the next two weeks. Every night, I would get back to the hotel and leave a voice mail update for my boss on the day’s progress. But I wrote it out first word for word and hit delete and re-recorded it until it was concise and perfect because I knew my boss would forward it to his boss and I didn’t want to waste either of their time.

      “Are you responsible for this equipment?” was Musk’s question. Obviously the engineer had some responsibility for it, otherwise a simple no would’ve been his response, so he should’ve come back with “I upgraded the software but the robotics department did the hardware upgrade.” Musk gave him a second opportunity to answer the question and he still screwed it up.

    • Yeah, I totally see your point. I've worked for both small, super rich, family owned small empires, as well as corporate, and experienced the gamut of what it means to be "near the line of fire" with real tough and sharp people, and what is right, when. That poor greenhorn had no chance, hopefully he learned something that day and his resume didn't suck afterwards. Still, what has Musk accomplished there and then? I have a feeling the WIRED story may be one of many trying to portray something by only showing incomplete facts..

    • I have a feeling the WIRED story may be one of many trying to portray something by only showing incomplete facts..

      There were definitely times where I felt the author was selectively feeding facts to make you draw a certain conclusion. A lot of the stories felt like rumors that only one person shared and/or that they didn’t confirm with multiple sources.

      I think we both agree that people shouldn’t be made to feel like crap just because the boss felt like picking on the nearest target. I don’t know if that’s what happened to the engineer. It could’ve been a landmark firing to give notice that the performance bar has to be set higher. Maybe the engineer’s manager should’ve been there with him if he was too inexperienced to deal with the CEO. Bottom line, it’s hard to know whether Musk was just responding emotionally or if he’s someone who can analyze three steps ahead in the span of seconds.

      I also come back to the idea that the engineer could’ve had his choice of jobs elsewhere if he survived three years at a highly respected company like Tesla. To have the pedigree of working for a top company like Apple, Google or Tesla means that you will have significantly more job offers than someone who does equally impressive work at a less well known or regarded family run business. So my expectation is that someone joining such a company will be need to be significantly stronger going in.

    • That was an amazing article.

      Elon seems like a very troubled and slightly toxic guy. More than anything else, it sounds like he needs a therapist; someone he can confide in who will help him deal with his mental health issues. And it would probably be much better for Tesla in the long run if he took a step back and let other people handle more of the day to day responsibilities at the company.

      This quote from a Tesla employee really struck me:

      “Just think about it: We designed a car that is so simple and elegant you can build it in a tent. You can build it when your CEO is melting down. You can build it when everyone is quitting or getting fired. That’s a real accomplishment. That’s amazing.”

      "Simple" and "elegant" are among the top adjectives I would use to describe my Model 3. It really is something special, and after reading that article I'm not sure how they managed to pull it off.

      I think Tesla's biggest problem right now is that they're only good at the things Elon cares about, and they're terrible at everything he doesn't care about. This seems like the kind of thing that happens when employees are scared of the boss. They do whatever it takes to make sure he's either happy or unaware: whichever is least likely to get them fired.

      For Tesla to really thrive, its employees need to feel comfortable raising issues and pushing back when necessary rather than staying quiet and burying problems. Especially when Elon's pushing so hard for things like full self-driving. If someone fails to speak up about a design flaw or an over-aggressive timeline because they're worried Elon will fire them, people could die.

    • Which definitely sounds good (pun intended) to Eric Idle! :)

      More free advertising for Tesla (if you want to get serious about this)

    • Chris' comment about workers tolerating abusive bosses who have a clear vision is intriguing. From a societal point of view, it strikes me that people will tolerate authoritarian governments for roughly the same reason.

      People are interesting.

    • The thing I always wonder is how good could these companies have been if they had brilliant leaders who weren't assholes?

      Sure, companies like Apple and Tesla have achieved great things while being led by assholes. But it seems likely that this was in spite of their leaders' faults, not because of them.

    • The other half of engineers think he's a God, because he can get the world's attention for what they're doing, and they feel his exaggerations are necessary to get there.

      Very interesting. If looking purely from technology progress, and business success views, he created a culture whereby anything that goes as a means to an end is approved and supported by majority who follows his orders. Much like a cult. And maybe most geniuses are a bit mad and this is to be expected?! I hope video below wasn't already shared on Cake but think it resonates on this topic (if it was already shared here, apologies)

    • Oh my God that was a great talk from Jon Ronson. And performed so well. I try to read everything he writes so I don't know how I missed this. Two of the comments were great:

      Lack of empathy...glib, superficial charm...grandiose concept of personal importance...sounds like just about every politician - ever.

      They say CEO's are the perfect psychopath without the murder.

    • In John Ronson’s book, Psychopath Test, he administers the test to “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, the turnaround CEO at Sunbeam. Not only does Dunlap score high on the test, he provides justification for why his answers are correct. It’s scary to see how matter of fact he is in justifying his actions.

      Do you remember the Star Trek episode The Enemy Within, where a transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two personas? The moral was that leadership requires empathy and ruthlessness.

    • The thing I always wonder is how good could these companies have been if they had brilliant leaders who weren't assholes?

      Sure seems to me that the vast majority of companies (tech??) that have 'brilliant leaders' have assholes.

      We'll leave @Chris out of the conversation for just a sec, but how about a list of those tech companies that have leaders that aren't assholes.

    • You might be interested in this article by Ben Horowitz where he talks about peacetime vs wartime CEOs. In general the "Asshole" CEOs are the wartime CEOs where companies need to have extreme focus to survive. Those are the ones who get the press and the prestige because they are the most interesting.

      The peacetime CEOs are much less dramatic and interesting, so we don't hear much about them.

    • I don't think Reed Hastings at Netflix is a jerk. I was pretty sure David Packard and Bill Hewlett were great during their long run with HP as an iconic company. I think Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are great.

      As far as combining empathy with ruthlessness, that sounds like Bezos. Empathy for execs at the top of Amazon and their customers, ruthless with the labor force, suppliers and the government.

    • I absolutely agree with this: "with a bold, clear vision that matters". After watching this video

      I couldn't help but think how the employees that work for SpaceX are probably as interested in shaping the future of humanity as they are in making a paycheque. Of course we all have to have food and shelter but having something inspiring to work on is a huge driver. SpaceX and rocket science is very risky and of course stressful. The stakes are so high it'd be hard to imagine someone could act like Mr. Spock when things are going wrong.

      Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company and Hyperloop are risky businesses and it only makes sense that things would be a roller coaster ride.

    • We need bold people who are not aware of the limits or refuse to accept them. Elon Musk, for all of his faults is a hero to me. Who else presents a bold vision of a better future and says lets all do this together?? I mean who say to their competition he hopes they succeed and do great things? He does and he means it.

    • As far as combining empathy with ruthlessness, that sounds like Bezos.

      The article about gig economy workers was Interesting. It would have been helpful to get a sense of the hourly rates in the Midwest, where $18 an hour would be worth more, as well as what the working conditions were like delivering in the suburbs where you don’t have to climb nine flights of stairs for each residential customer. Also, the opening story made me wonder, why didn’t he bring a dolly with him in his car? Not every commercial building or appartment building is going to have an elevator. It would’ve avoided this.

      I’m sure I looked comical as I staggered down a downtown San Francisco street on a recent weekday, arms full of packages—as I dropped one and bent down to pick it up, another fell, and as I tried to rein that one in, another toppled.

      Did the training videos fail to mention this idea or did the deliverer forget to bring one?

      I used to just read articles and absorb them, allowing a journalist’s slant or point of view to wash over me and accept their conclusions without challenging them. But then I joined Cake and read about how people just accept the truth of anti-vaxxer videos. And now after two months on Cake, I feel that I’m starting to notice when an article is incomplete. Where there isn’t enough information to agree with the conclusion they’re trying to lead me to. And now I’m starting to question more.

      See what you’re doing to us, @Chris !!!

    • I'm always fascinated by stories of successful entrepreneurs who have one or more failures, and then finally hit it out of the part as Jobs did with Apple. NeXT was indeed a failure, and then... Since you were close to this, what was it that Steve did differently when he got back to Apple. What did he learn from the NeXT experience, that helped him be so successful later?

    • We need bold people who are not aware of the limits or refuse to accept them.

      Yes, and respectfully not to challenge the statement, but think how Hitler too was bold. I am an admirer of out the box thinking and non conformism, but my idea is those who promote it should be allowed to do so solely based on values they bring and somehow perhaps have less of a sacrificial attitude or the arrogance to claim priority over other society rules or needs. Is it a paycheck then it's a business and profit trumps everything, let's not fool ourselves with delusions of warm and fuzzy world progress, when in fact we have so much to fix concerning life's basics.

      As a side perspective, think how Nikolas Tesla ended poor after a life of research dedicated to science which he selflessly offered to the world. I do not know much about Musk's technical contribution, and because of that I could be wrong, but to me he appears allot more a business man with ambitious vision, than an inventor.

    • Certainly we don't have to allow illegal or immoral things to occur by someone merely because they have a grand vision of betterment. I think laws, voting, quitting and protests do a reasonable job of handling this.

      I think Musk knows that in order to carry out his vision he has to be successful financially first and foremost. Tesla got that wrong but maybe he was successful in a different but I'm not going to get into that conversation.

      Is Musk creating anything new by wanting to go to Mars and establish a colony? No. Is he creating something new by wanting a greener economy and to tackle climate change? No. Original is going down instead of up to solve traffic jams? Maybe somewhat. He's not an originator of wanting or envisioning any of this stuff but he certainly has revived the movement and taken direct steps to move towards a more positive future. I think his ambitions go well beyond wanting to be rich and powerful. Should we hold him accountable for being a dick? Heck yes.

    • Is Musk creating anything new by wanting to go to Mars and establish a colony? No. Is he creating something new by wanting a greener economy and to tackle climate change? No.

      Not sure how you can say both things.

      SpaceX built the first reusable rocket since the Space Shuttle. That's something new.

      Tesla is the first truly mass-produced electric car and the first one to be a commercial success. That's something new.
      "Tesla is now selling more Model 3s in the U.S. than all other brands of electric cars combined. In the luxury sedan segment, the Model 3 has lapped the best-selling cars from Mercedes and BMW. In the third quarter, the Model 3 outsold all but a handful of Toyota and Honda cars."

    • Great questions. I've pondered them for years. Jeff Bezos told me that a certain planetary alignment has to happen for success, not something you have full control over.

      With Steve ==> Apple, I believe the big factors were:

      1. Ed Catmull. He is the steady forever CEO of Pixar who stuck with Steve through years of awful failure, and I think he helped Steve de-personalize pushback.

      For example, Mike Slade was VP of Marketing at NeXT, my boss, close to Steve for years. He finally had enough and quit. In his resignation letter, he listed three reasons why. Steve stopped speaking to him. Two years later, Steve called him back to say he re-read Mike's letter, and Mike was right. That had never been in Steve before.

      So Mike started acting as advisor to Steve but after 3 years of laying people off at Apple plus simplifying and refreshing the product line, Apple's sales were still in decline. Mike went to CES, heard Bill Gates speak about Windows everywhere, and during an offsite with Steve and his direct reports, asked why they couldn't do that with Apple? Maybe they could start with a music player.

      2. The planets. One reason we had trouble selling machines at NeXT is they were built on Unix and it was so resource-hungry our machines were too expensive and slow. Apple had tried the same with AUX and failed. By the time he got to Apple, machines could finally power the operating system we had built without choking.

      Also, NeXT was asking people to introduce new machines into their mix when they already had Windows, Mac, and Unix. Hard ask. But at Apple, he was reviving their current investment in Apple, a whole different ask.

      3. Being incremental. Steve told us all many times that the worst mistake of his life was too many innovations at once with NeXT. He didn't need a magneto optical drive, which ruined the first product intro.

      Notice how he got into phones incrementally. First the iPod. Then a phone without third party apps. Then the App Store. All powered, ironically, by NeXTstep. No need to invent a new operating system.