Most of Musk’s staff seem so excited by what they are doing that any of his tantrums are seen as the price of doing business. Fans of the tech giant are nicknamed MuskBros. How often do you get a chance to work for a true visionary? And let’s be clear here, Musk is a visionary. You could argue that his first venture, PayPal transformed online payments. As well as attempting to colonise Mars with SpaceX and revolutionise the electric car market with Tesla, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain-computer interfaces, and is its CEO. In December 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel-construction company.
Musk doesn’t really have a contemporary in the modern business world. Most CEOs have deep knowledge in one field and spend their careers mastering the details of the narrow section of the world they have chosen. Musk probably has more in common with someone like William Randolph Hearst or one of the first railroad barons. Given Musk’s vision, it’s easy to forget he’s an engineer at heart.
Yet an engineer he is, and therein lies the problem. While most CEOs are happy to steer the ship and focus on strategy and long-range planning, Musk gets involved in the minutiae of the products he makes. “First of all, when Elon says something, you have to pause and not immediately blurt out, ‘Well, that’s impossible,’ or, ‘There’s no way we’re going to do that. I don’t know how.’ So you zip it, and you think about it, and you find ways to get that done.” That’s Gwynne Shotwell, the President and CEO of SpaceX.
For every satisfied employee, there’s someone who balks at the relatively low pay and long hours that Musk demands. And it’s not just employees who are giving Musk a hard time. The media loves nothing more than to cut someone with ideas beyond their station down to size. And what could be more arrogant than attempting to colonise Mars? When a recent report claimed that Mars had insufficient amounts of CO2 to ever be colonised, the media had a field day. The tech website CNET led with: ‘Sorry, Elon Musk: NASA says plans to terraform Mars won’t work.’ An Astronomy magazine subhead: ‘Sorry to ruin your plans Elon.’ ‘Elon Musk Wants to Terraform Mars, and He’s Refusing to Back Down,’ wrote Inverse. Another headline: ‘Elon Musk’s ‘supervillain’ plan to NUKE Mars to help humans live on red planet rubbished by experts.’