The Office of the CEO is odd and quite strange in the ways it relates a company to the mass populace. To a public eye looking at a company solely through its work; It comes across as a large and quite abstract an entity. Its actions are baffling for they take steps in so many directions and have such different visions. Traditionally for a company to be relatable to people, a large body of work is required through the public relations and the marketing departments. Many companies which do not sell to consumers directly do not need this kind of relation with the public and choose to skip it altogether for a large part. However if one chooses to take a look at a company beyond the numbers, facts and schematics, to feel the essence and spirit of a company, it is the CEO who comes into the picture. Unlike a company, abstract and often intangible, a CEO is a real entity with identifiable human characteristics.
Many a times the CEO is attached to the company’s image and the company’s image is attached to the CEO. A charming and magnetic personality leads to an uptick in the stock price, promotes industry faith, consumer trust and investor confidence in even the most tumultuous of times. On the other side a dull and repulsive CEO can ruin even the best of quarterly reports and balance sheets. The image of success and burden of projecting it at all times falls on to the shoulder of CEOs. Not many survive this burden especially if their personal lives are very public, especially if they are active on social media, especially if its twitter.
TESLA is an electric car company. Founded by the billionaire Elon Musk. It pushed along one mission statement: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Fast forward fifteen years and to a large part it looks like they have succeeded on that statement: global automakers have announced plans to invest around $90 billion to get a chance to sink into what is now TESLA’s pie. Their latest car, the Model 3 is currently the 5th best selling car in the united states despite all its production issues. TESLA is planning numerous battery gigafactories each costing a whopping $5 billion, things seem to be on track and TESLA seems to be gaining momentum, but then there is Elon Musk.
Perhaps the most polarizing leader of our times, his controversiality matched only by his charisma. He inspires passion either outright hate or fervent devotion. Commanding a cult following , he embodies the worst of silicon valley’s CEO worship culture. An online bracket poll had Elon Musk’s fanbase as the worst fanbase of the internet. His most outlandish schemes are viewed as prophecies from the future. And this appeal of his doesn’t merely extend to internet fan clubs. TESLA as a company does not market its products, a practice used by only some of the most revered brands in the automotive industry. It relies on word of mouth and perhaps more importantly the word of its CEO’s mouth.
Which brings us to the problem today, Elon Musk is not alright; he alternated between laughter and shedding tears in a New York times interview, he called the rescuer of children stuck in the Thai cave a pedophile and a child rapist. He potentially committed a federal crime by disclosing a private buyout of TESLA for 420$ a share on twitter, he smoked marijuana live on a video podcast.
His life seems to be a cruise control of controversy, only unlike his cars there’s no autopilot to stop him. His actions in any sphere are invariable tied to TESLA. High profile executive exit one after the other all blaming the attention Musk brings on to TESLA. He may have been the man with a magic touch, but now he’s spiralling downwards.
There’s still a chance a few months down the road the company might pull out fine along with Musk, maybe then he’ll crack a joke on twitter about our present concerns, call us idiots. That scenario is not the point. Like it or not Elon Musk is not the only one working to make TESLA succeed, its just his mere presence that overshadows the work of all other involved parties. The claim isn’t that he steals credit, that’s reserved for jobs; but is the fact his own personal controversies might drag TESLA down along with him. TESLA doesn’t deserve to die for Musk’s sins. It is a foolish thing to humanise companies, they aren’t human and worse still to identify the work of so many onto one individual. Fountainheads are for decorative purposes not for functional uses.