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    • I don't think Ben Horowitz came up with this, but he seemed to have popularized it in the Silicon Valley: "Hire for strength, not absence of weakness."

      I'm not advocating rage firings without knowing anything about the person you're firing, but I can see from an investor's point of view — and even from some employee's point of view — that it's better to have someone like Musk who will go to crazy extremes to save his company, than to have a traditional CEO who closes plants and lays people off when the going gets tough. Musk will skip vacations, sleep under his desk, work to exhaustion to save thousands of jobs but yes, some jobs will get lost unfairly along the way and feelings hurt when he goes irrational.

    • I haven't worked for Musk, we've never met, but I see Steve Jobs in him from all I read. And I have met, competed with, and partnered with Jeff Bezos, and see parallels with both Musk and Jobs. Anyone who has worked for Jeff knows about his legendary "nutters" when he loses it in meetings and goes nuts.

      There was a meeting between Steve and Quantum when Steve realized he needed a hard drive for the Mac that I will write up in a day or two here on Cake. I have always wondered, did that meeting show his genius or ruthlessness or his unique combination of the two? I finally decided it was both.

    • The engineers I know at Tesla are like the engineers I knew who worked for Steve: some of them are driven INSANE by the things Musk will say about about their projects. He promises dates they can't hit. He demands features without being fully informed about how hard they are to do, or how impractical. He says things to the press that make engineer's heads explode.

      For example, in his recent 60 Minutes interview, he took his hands off the wheel to show Leslie Stahl the advanced features of Autopilot. Some of the engineers lost their minds because he keeps abusing features like that, causing confusion in consumer minds about what Autopilot is, and exaggerating what it can do — making them look bad because when they can't deliver his exaggerated promises it reflects on 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.

    • 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.