A Yale leadership scholar explains how you — and Musk — can up your management game.
Wired’s exposé of the inner workings of Tesla and the combative leadership style of its infamously mercurial leader, Elon Musk — titled “Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla’s Production Hell” — starts with a harrowing anecdote. In a very public manner, Musk allegedly berated and fired a young Tesla engineer, who he believed made a foolish mistake, with these explosive words: “You’re a f*cking idiot! Get the f*ck out and don’t come back!” the tech magazine reports an anonymous source as saying.
Charles Duhigg, the reporter of the piece, vividly brings to life a megalomaniacal genius who struggles to regulate his emotions (probably because he works 120 hours a week and never sleeps!), bullies underlings and executives by challenging their intelligence and competence for any perceived error or misstep, expects perfection and a sickening level of deference (one guy alleges he was told to hunch down more in meetings!), and demands people to work at a herculean pace for an exhausting duration. (Tesla declined to comment in the Wired piece, but the company and its CEO “objected to the reporting and how questions were being asked.”)
Not everyone in Musk’s professional milieu, however, finds his style — some of which we’ve all witnessed with his many public antics — offensive. In fact, according to Duhigg’s reporting, some find his perfectionism inspiring, like Tesla’s former general counsel Todd Maron: “He’s someone who empowers you to be better than you think you can be,” he told the magazine.