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Is Elon Musk a Jerk, or Icon? Maybe, Both | As Twitter Tactics Shock, Mogul’s Controversial Style Explained


Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter, has fired a member of the Android app developer team via tweet, after laying off half of the company’s employees and thousands of contractors. Musk fired an Android developer named Eric Frohnhoefer, who claimed in a tweet that Musk’s assessment of Twitter being slow because the app performs “>1000 poorly batched RPCs just to render timelines” was incorrect.

A Twitter duel followed after which a user tagged Elon Musk and questioned whether the CEO wanted Frohnhoefer on his team. Musk replied that he was fired.

Ever since taking on Twitter – the deal to which was in itself a roller-coaster – people have been keenly watching Musk’s ever-changing tactics. His constant takebacks on Twitter blue policies, endorsement of Republicans, and more have baffled users and tech-world watchers alike. But only a brief look at Musk’s career would ascertain that this is not new.

Thriving on Contradiction

A report by the Associated Press amid Musk’s meanders while the then ongoing Twitter acquisition remarked that the techie thrives on contradiction.

“Musk boasts that he’s acquiring Twitter to defend freedom of speech. But he has long used the platform to attack perceived foes who dare to disagree with him,” the report had then said, which seemed to ring true months later, with Frohnhoefer’s firing.

He is supremely confident in his own judgment and abilities. But he has openly acknowledged vulnerabilities, disclosing his angst over a breakup in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone and telling a Saturday Night Live audience last year that he was the show’s first host with Asperger’s syndrome.

The report hailed him as a ‘brilliant visionary who has reimagined what a car can be, not to mention his ventures into rocket travel, solar energy, computerised brain implants, and the construction of an underground tunnel network’. But, his apparent joy in destroying corporate conventions has alienated analysts, regulators, employees, and others who are unsure what to make of him, it explained.

“He’s the poster child for disruption,” Benjamin Breier, the former CEO of Kindred Health Care and author of a book about unconventional corporate leadership told the Associated Press.

Controversial, But Emerges Unscathed

Even at his other businesses, Musk has not been devoid of controversies. He has been accused of creating a toxic culture of racism and sexism at the companies he runs, the Business Insider stated in a report analysing the tech mogul’s behavior.

Elon Musk (R) answers questions from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence. Reuters/FILE

In June, 15 former and current Black Tesla employees filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the electric-car manufacturer. Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual-misconduct claim against the CEO in 2018. Despite his antics, Musk has largely avoided professional consequences.

Furthermore, the tech billionaire’s personal life generates the kind of tabloid frenzy reserved for Hollywood A-listers, and his professional stunts send certain stocks into a tailspin, the report states.

According to experts, Musk’s ability to recover from repercussions is the result of a complex interplay between a fierce, cultlike fandom and his transformational leadership style.

The Celebrity Status

Various reports have wondered whether Musk is a ‘jerk or an innovative leader’ to follow. And the answer may not be that simple. Jay Baer, the founder of the marketing-consultancy startup Convince & Convert told Business Insider that Musk’s business style is such that the companies he has built may not have the same value without his own personal brand endorsement in it.

It may be so because Musk carries his own weight as a ‘tech celebrity’. A commentary in Forbes on the same compares him celebrities and the impact they carry when championing a cause or making a political statement. Musk’s comments earlier this year sent Dogecoin up 60% in just minutes, the report explained, adding that this was not the first time Musk’s remarks had a significant impact on the stock market. Musk’s tweet last year caused Tesla’s stock value to plummet by $13 billion. Soon after, Tesla shareholder Chase Gharrity filed a lawsuit alleging that Musk’s tweeting habits have “severe ramifications on the company’s ability to secure financing.”

According to Business Insider, these events have been dubbed the “Elon Musk Effect,” a term that emphasises how much influence a high-profile tech celebrity has in a world that has become tech-dependent.

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