No one can deny that Elon Musk is a genius. He is the brains behind Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company. He is also a visionary who dreams of colonising Mars, transforming transportation, and enhancing human intelligence.
But he is also a man who has succumbed to his own celebrity status and has made some poor choices on Twitter that have backfired on him. In this article, I will examine some of the scandals that have stained his image and cast doubt on his leadership.
One of the first incidents that sparked outrage was his insult to a British diver who helped rescue 12 boys from a flooded cave in Thailand by calling him a “pedo guy” on Twitter in 2018. This was after the diver had criticised Musk’s offer to send a mini-submarine to assist in the rescue operation as a “PR stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working”. Musk later apologised and deleted the tweet, but not before it triggered a defamation lawsuit that he eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Another scandal that rocked his company was his tweet that he was thinking of taking Tesla private at $420 per share, adding that he had “funding secured” in 2018. This caused a huge fluctuation in Tesla’s stock price and led to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which charged him with securities fraud. The SEC alleged that Musk had made false and misleading statements to investors and had not secured any funding for the deal. He agreed to pay a $20 million fine and step down as Tesla’s chairman for three years as part of a settlement with the SEC.
More recently, he has faced backlash for his tweets about Covid-19, cryptocurrency, climate change, and politics. He has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic by calling it “dumb” and saying that “the coronavirus panic is dumb”. He has promoted dubious treatments like chloroquine and ivermectin as potential cures for Covid-19 without any scientific evidence. Furthermore, he has questioned the effectiveness of vaccines by saying that they are “not needed” for people who have recovered from Covid-19 or who are young and healthy. He has mocked lockdown measures by tweeting “FREE AMERICA NOW” and saying that he would defy California’s stay-at-home order by reopening Tesla’s factory in Fremont.
The tech mogul has also been playing with the market like a toy by hyping or dissing various digital coins like Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum. The billionaire has caused massive swings in their prices by tweeting things like “Bitcoin is almost as BS as fiat money”, “One word: Doge” or “I might pump, but I don’t dump.” Musk also announced that Tesla would accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars, only to change his mind later, citing environmental concerns. He even hinted at selling Tesla’s Bitcoin holdings, only to clarify later that he had not done so.
Musk has also pissed off environmental activists over his stance on fossil fuels. The SpaceX founder has defended his use of coal power for his rockets by saying that it was necessary for achieving his goal of making humans multi-planetary. He also slammed Bill Gates for investing in nuclear energy instead of electric cars. He also supported right-wing politicians like Donald Trump, whom he praised as having a “good sense of humour”. Not only that, but he even donated $9900 to Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the US House of Representatives.
All these scandals have damaged his credibility and reputation as a leader and innovator. They have also exposed his ego and arrogance as someone who thinks he can do no wrong and who does not care about the consequences of his actions. He has become more like a celebrity who is obsessed with attention and fame than a CEO.
He has lost his Midas touch on Twitter where he once had millions of loyal fans who admired his vision and achievements. Now he faces criticism from former supporters who are disappointed by his behaviour or disillusioned by his promises. He has also alienated many potential partners who are wary of working with him or investing in his ventures.
He should learn from other successful leaders who use social media wisely to communicate their values and goals without offending or misleading their followers. For example, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, has used his Twitter account to share his achievements and aspirations in e-commerce and space exploration. He has also used it to express his gratitude and appreciation to his customers and employees. He has avoided controversial topics and personal attacks on his rivals or critics. Bezos has maintained a professional and respectful tone that reflects his leadership style.
Another example is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook and Instagram, who has used his social media platforms to showcase his products and features, as well as his personal life and interests. He has also used them to address important issues such as privacy, misinformation, hate speech, and democracy. He has engaged with his users and followers by answering their questions and soliciting their feedback. Zuckerberg has shown humility and accountability by admitting his mistakes and apologising for them.
Musk should focus more on delivering results than creating hype. He should remember that Twitter is not a game, but a powerful tool that can make or break him. He should use it to inspire and inform people about his vision and goals, not to insult or mislead them. To build trust and loyalty among his customers and investors, he should use it, not lose or alienate them.
He should realise that being a celebrity CEO comes with great responsibility as well as great power. He should use his power for good, not for evil. Using it to make the world a better place, not a worse one.
It’s important to remember that a celebrity CEO is not just a celebrity, but also a leader with millions of people who look up to and depend on them. Acting like a leader is crucial.