December 6, 2022

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Does Elon Musk's leadership style still work?  "He is the prototype of the competent fool."

Does Elon Musk’s leadership style still work? “He is the prototype of the competent fool.”

Elon Musk has got to be the most searched name on Google in recent weeks. The world’s richest man has taken over Twitter, firing half of its 7,500 employees and demanding full commitment from their stay. Musk is the prototype for Competent jerk“.

Dimitri Tgeskins

On Twitter, a discussion arose last week between new owner Elon Musk and an engineer about how fast Twitter works on Android. The man pointed out to Musk that the billionaire didn’t quite understand it technically and gave him further explanation. He can only moderately estimate it. One tweet later, the man was fired without notice.

Musk is what we call terminology A Competent jerk name”, says Prof. Jesse Segers, dean of the Interuniversity Center for Organizational and Change Studies (Sioo) in Utrecht and specialist in leadership. “He’s very smart, but not at all a warm person. Other examples include the head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.”

Extremely hardcore

It’s also an anecdote that perfectly illustrates how Musk goes about his business in every company he builds and amplifies. Think of the online payment system Paypal, but also of the car company Tesla and the aerospace company SpaceX. Everywhere he demands complete dedication from his employees. For example, he told Twitter employees last week that they are no longer allowed to work from home from now on. This week there was an ultimatum: via a Google form, they had to promise that they would be more committed to their work from now on and that they would be ‘super hard’.

Within Musk’s reasoning, Segers still somewhat understands the decision to work from home. “If you’re really creating, it’s important to look each other in the eye. It’s often uncertain what to do and so you need a variety of ideas. This works better if you can see each other. As opposed to, for example , executive tasks, where everyone knows what to do. But that’s basically Musk’s way of presenting that without any context, that’s not very smart.”

Result: On Friday, it turned out that several employees had decided to leave the company. So much so that Musk had to convince some of them to stay anyway. And to quash his request to work from home somewhat: it is now possible again, if they can prove to their manager that they have worked hard enough.

American culture

Many of the fired engineers point out that a number of services at Twitter are now completely understaffed and that there is a risk that the social medium will fail completely in the next few days. Archiving of old Twitter messages is growing. Reply musk? He couldn’t care less about it and posts meme after meme. Rather, he suggests, bankruptcy is certainly not impossible.

“For almost all human beings, 44 billion euros is a lot of money, but for Musk that is less than half of his wealth.”AFP photo

Segers: “That’s his leadership style and the kind of omnipotence he has. Like, ‘I’ve done that before.’ You can also see that spontaneity in the way he snaps thousands of people. Although I should add that this is not uncommon. Quite in American culture. Unions are less powerful there, so there is much less job security. The advantage is that you will find a new job faster in the US: the turnover is higher. It’s a different way of looking at society than in Europe.”

However, it is still remarkable how carelessly Musk apparently makes his decisions. Doesn’t he risk completely destroying Twitter now? Segers: “Musk uses what’s called the influenceLeadership strategy. This means that he invests from one logic reasonable lossesacceptable loss. For almost all mortals, €44 billion is a lot of money, but for Musk that’s less than half of his fortune. He can financially afford the acquisition of Twitter. And if all fails, so be it.

From hippies to workaholics

But this strategy is very radical. “Because he started from the logic that it would be all or nothing, he immediately creates a tabula rasa,” says Segers. “He sacked the entire top of the company. Instead, he has his own Crazy quilt He brought with him, loyalists from his other companies who totally joined in his story. The empathic side does not play any role for him. He really looks at her as an engineer. Musk is someone who loves to experiment, including blue and gray ticks, and see what he learns from them. The intention is to make his future this way and not wait. For that matter, I don’t see anything strange in what he’s doing on Twitter now.”

However, that was not accepted on Twitter either, as attested by many people who decided to leave voluntarily. “I think this has to do in part with the specific company culture within Twitter,” Segers points out. “Founder Jack Dorsey often walked to work, he meditated and was more of a hippie persona. And that carried over into the rest of the company. If suddenly a completely different manager took over, who prided himself on working 120 hours a week, of course it would have clashed. If only Musk had He did the same thing with Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, it might have caused less of a fuss.”

A continuation on Twitter in the coming weeks seems a sure thing. “As an entrepreneur, Musk is a winner, but as a leader he has a weak side. However, I think he will put Twitter back on top. Often with the same recipes from the past, but with different people.”

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