The Truth About Elon Musk: It’s His Way Or The Highway

Elon Musk
Elon Musk. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Elon Musk is one of the world’s great innovators, but that doesn’t mean he’s the perfect CEO.

(He only has an 82% approval rating on Glassdoor.)

Musk is chief executive at Tesla Motors, his hi-tech luxury car company, and SpaceX, his space transport services company. A new report from The Wall Street Journal sheds light on Musk’s leadership qualities — as well as the tendency for turnover at his companies.

  • According to the report, former Tesla employees say Musk’s vision and drive are inspiring, but it can also be exhausting, too. 
  • Some managers describe Musk’s style as “never say no.”
  • Former Tesla engineer Brett Foster, who now works at Samsung, says, “I regularly struggled with the culture and am extremely happy I am no longer there.”
  • Former Tesla CFO Ryan Popple says Tesla is where it is today because of Musk, but his “relentless perfectionism” made some people’s jobs — and lives — extremely difficult, as they’d be forced to iron out all the technical challenges to make something work.
  • Tesla’s former VP of public relations Ricardo Reyes says Musk “is very, very demanding, and it’s not the right speed for a light of people… It’s mission driven. It’s constant activity. He used to say that he only wanted ‘special forces working for him.’ No normal people.”
  • Tesla executives, both current and former, say “few people are willing to disagree openly” with Musk. Those who fall out of sync with him often don’t stay long,” the WSJ says.
  • There have been a bevy of departures over the last few years, particularly in the leadership and management roles: Tesla fired two executives stationed in Europe and Asia last summer; former Apple VP George Blankenship left in 2013; and in 2012, Tesla’s chief engineer Peter Rawlinson, and vehicle supervisor and engineer Nick Sampson, both left the company.
  • Musk still has no succession plan at Tesla. The company’s technology and design chiefs have been at the company for at least five years each, but neither are being considered “as likely to succeed him.” Sources say Musk has been looking for a chief operating officer on and off for years, abut has come up empty. Many believe he will stay in his top spot for at least four or five more years. What comes after that, only Musk knows. 

Read the full story over at The Wall Street Journal.