Is Elon Musk really, as Wired posited yesterday, “broken”? Sure, the Tesla and SpaceX chief may have come across even more unhinged than usual these past months, missing deadlines, making grand statements and tweeting himself into ever-deeper holes. But gone? Busted? Finito? Nope.
Former GM chairman Bob Lutz and NYU management professor JP Eggers told CNBC on Friday that Tesla’s stock would go up if Musk left. That may be true. A boardroom veteran would never, surely, announce via Twitter that he were ready to take the company private, only to backtrack. Neither would somebody with a passing experience of C-suites fail to release the one product – in Tesla’s case its Model 3 – that would propel the firm into the mainstream of tech, rather than a Tony Stark-related footnote.
Musk’s decisions could often be better characterized as Russian roulette than business acumen. He takes chances in the name of a big picture; rarely a bottom line. Perhaps that’s why, in an interview with the New York Times last week, Musk admitted that 2018 has been “the most difficult and painful” year in his career.
Let’s forget the ekphrasis of fanboys and Twitter trolls: Musk has made some awful decisions at awful times this annum. There is no excuse for calling somebody a “pedo” on social media. Nor will you find a business compendium that advocates veiled promotions of cannabis.
The question is this: why do we care whether Musk misses the odd release deadline, or gets drunk and heads to Twitter (except when abusing a fellow human being)? Tech lovers should abide Musk because he pushes the boundaries of possibility. Environmentalist should abide him because, despite continued calls to fuse green efforts with traditional capitalism, Musk gets stuff done, and cares little for the financial consequence.
A change of leadership might alleviate Tesla’s financial uncertainty. It might leave more employees in work. It could turn the marque into one of the world’s major automakers. It probably won’t send humans to Mars; invent a viable Hyperloop; revolutionize batteries or make American homes energy self-sufficient.
In other words, another CEO – a better CEO, perhaps – would make Tesla an electric car company. And it’s far, far more than that.