Nov 12, 2022 - Economy

Elon Musk's major Twitter miscalculation

Illustration of the Twitter bird flying past Elon Musk, leaving droppings on his shoulder.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images.

Elon Musk is using the same leadership playbook at Twitter that he has at his other companies. It's proving to be a costly mistake.

What to know: Musk has a well-earned reputation for being among the most demanding and capricious bosses in the history of corporate America. Past and present employees tell of being assigned tasks with cost or timeline objectives that seem impossible, often with their jobs hanging in the balance.

  • At SpaceX and Tesla, many employees have been willing to suffer Musk because they consider the missions to be greater than themselves.
  • Making man an interplanetary species by getting to Mars, or keeping the Earth habitable by transitioning to electric cars and solar energy. These are the sorts of things that help someone justify missing some family dinners, or even sleeping at the office.

The problem: Twitter under Musk doesn't have an inspirational mission, beyond some pablum about wanting to become "the most accurate source of information about the world."

  • Instead, employees have been told to increase revenue and cut costs ⁠— all for the financial benefit of Musk himself.
  • He's still threatening to fire those who miss deadlines or who work remotely, as he has elsewhere, but without making Twitter a place that most people would want to work in the first place.
  • Even worse, many Twitter employees believe he is recklessly degrading the core product, which is what they'd been excited to work on in the first place.
  • The result, of course, has been a rash of key resignations at an organization that Musk had already cut to the bone.

The bottom line: Musk's career has been about making something out of nothing.

  • At Twitter, he appears to be doing the opposite.
Go deeper