Elon Musk is an expert at making headlines in addition to building electric vehicles and spacecraft.
Musk is always quick to dismiss any negative news. However, his most recent conflict with Twitter illustrates the risks of constantly taking the high road: while the CEO won’t be brought low by scandal, he is doing more work than normal.
The CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and the Boring Company revived his on-again, off-again bid to acquire Twitter last week.
The change of heart followed a judge’s decision to allow discovery of purportedly private and potentially damning communications between Musk’s inner circle and Twitter whistleblower Peter “Mudge” Zatko in the lawsuit Musk filed against the company after backing out of his initial $44 billion purchase agreement.
Due to Musk’s reaffirmed plans to complete the purchase by the end of October, the judge in the case decided to postpone the beginning of the trial. The trial might begin in November, though, if he is unable to finalize the transaction.
Musk then pushed for concessions that the platform was unwilling to make, which put an end to the talks to buy Twitter.
The computer tycoon also caused a sensation when, in an interview with the Financial Times, he suggested that Taiwan should be given special administrative status within China. Freedom is “not for sale,” the Taiwanese ambassador to the US told Musk in response to his proposition.
There have been other disputes recently, too. He apparently had a secret conversation with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, before tweeting a peace plan to end the conflict in Ukraine that echoed Kremlin talking lines.
Ian Bremmer, the founder, and CEO of Eurasia Group made the following claims, which Musk disputes: “Only once—about 18 months ago—have I ever spoken with Putin. Space was the topic at hand.”
In terms of Musk’s newsmaking, it hasn’t been an awful week either.
He was accused of having an affair with Nicole Shanahan, the wife of Musk’s close friend and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, this past summer. Just in the last 30 days, there have also been reports that he surreptitiously fathered twins with Shivon Zilis, a Neuralink executive.
Being the CEO of four businesses with a combined value of billions while being covered in so much scandal, controversies, and allegations of misbehavior is rare.
Criminal defense lawyer Duncan Levin said the following to Insider about his clients, who include Anna Delvey, Clare Bronfman, and Harvey Weinstein: “Nobody can avoid scandal. Elon Musk owns his own business, thus he is certainly somewhat protected from the consequences.”
For instance, Musk has been charged with creating a negative work environment where racism and misogyny are acceptable. A lawsuit alleging racial discrimination was brought against Tesla in June by 15 former and present Black Tesla employees.
Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to resolve a sexual misconduct accusation made against the CEO in 2018. Musk has mainly avoided professional repercussions despite his pranks.
The computer tycoon’s personal life also sparks the kind of tabloid hysteria usually reserved for Hollywood A-listers, while his business exploits send certain stocks into a tailspin.
Experts told Insider that the complicated interaction between Musk’s revolutionary leadership style and his ferocious, cult-like fan base is the reason for his ability to recover from setbacks.
Significant analysis, study, and case studies have been done on Musk’s transformational leadership style. The founder of the marketing-consultancy startup Convince & Convert, an advisory company with clients like 3M, Oracle, Cisco, and Nike, Jay Baer, said of the charismatic leader: “He’s such an unpredictable character, and nobody really knows which way he is going to turn, which makes him such an interesting leader to follow.”
Musk is a legendary figure among fans of electric vehicles, space exploration, and technology because of his achievements in renewable energy and space flight.
Tom Goodwin, co-founder of the business consulting firm All We Have Is Now and host of the business, technology, and culture video series “The Edge” on Euronews, called him “a really flawed, intriguing person.” “Everything that Musk stands for challenges established corporate practices.”
Although Musk is not perfect, according to Chad Anderson, CEO of the space-tech venture capital fund Space Angels Network, he has the kind of “vision and true skills” that enable him to do the seemingly impossible. Anderson was one of the first investors in SpaceX.
Additionally, a former manager at Tesla previously told Insider that he is far more clever than the majority of people. To succeed, the employee claimed, “You have to think 10 times more audaciously than he does.”
According to Goodwin, the issues Musk encounters, the friction he creates, the devoted group of supporters and allies, as well as the growing enemy count, only serve to solidify his mythology. “Obstacles being overcome and people coming together for a common cause are producing energy and feeding the narrative,” the author writes.
Furthermore, the dynamic that led to Trump’s ascent is comparable to Musk’s unflappability.
Trump and Musk are both made of Teflon, according to Baer. Trump once claimed he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and “not lose any voters,” in his memory. He went on to win the presidency after making such a comment in 2016. He noted that Musk shares the same halo.
They are the movement they’ve created, according to Baer, who also noted that without Trump, MAGA would not exist and that without Musk, the appeal of his firms would be lessened.
According to Baer, this is very different from the majority of other CEOs, who are essentially interchangeable mercenaries or founders who typically lack the voting shares or board control to grant themselves scandal immunity.
For instance, it’s not unusual for CEOs to be asked to resign in the wake of accusations of personal impropriety. According to reports, Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, resigned following what the tech company described as a prior consensual relationship with middle management, while Bill Gates departed Microsoft’s board amid an inquiry into an alleged romance with an employee.
Trump and Musk are more effective because of their multiple ethical failings, according to Baer. “They are both morality mavericks,’ and that serves them, not the other way around.”