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Home / Business / Elton Musk, Tesla's Rockstar CEO, is beginning to lose his groupies

Elton Musk, Tesla's Rockstar CEO, is beginning to lose his groupies



Even among the technical CEOs who have become the names of this generation, Tesla's (TSLA) Elon Musk is something special

unlike, for example, Apple's Tim Cook (AAPL) or Jeff Bezos of Amazon (AMZN) It's just as likely to see Musk's activities distributed on page six, as on the cover of Fortune. This fits the man who inspired Robert Downey Jr's account of Tony Stark, the fictitious billionaire inventor and playboy better known as Iron Man.

  • Written by TheStreets tech reporter Annie Gaus, the weekly "The Tech Skeptic" column takes a critical look at the biggest news in technology. Follow Annie Gaus on TheStreet here.

Musk was indeed a prominent CEO ̵

1; a leader whose personal celebrity, whether positive or negative, threatens to surpass their achievements in business. Musk can run four companies (SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink, in addition to Tesla), but nowadays it's easier to read headlines about his weekend antics, his many romantic entanglements, or his bombastic tweets.

Most recent example was Musk describing a British diver who rescued 12 Thai boys in a now-deleted tweet "Pedo" after the diver made Musk's rousing mission to Thailand with a mini-submarine as a PR trick criticized. And that's just the last in a long line of controversial tweets by the Tesla boss, including attacks on media critics and an ex-employee, and an unfortunate April Fool, claiming that Tesla went bankrupt, sending the stick diving. 196590000]

These were some of the deepest negative moments in Musk's career. The Pedo fiasco and a May conference call in which Musk attacked an analyst for "boring, bony questions" were two moments that gave Musk overwhelming negative attention, according to data from Quid, a software that seeks, analyzes and visualizes Text-based Data for Strategic Business Questions

"Big CEOs can be extroverted and love the limelight," said Bob Rosen, an organization psychologist working with CEOs. However, in Tesla's case, the CEO's antics are often accompanied by wild fluctuations in the stock – for better or for worse, at least for Tesla's many short sellers.

"If the prominent CEO says something stupid on the public stage, does something that embarrasses the workforce, or is not a change leader that helps the company navigate through market disruptions, then the employees will turn against him or her they turn around, "Rosen added.

That could already happen at Tesla's executive departures this year and a whistleblower lawsuit by a former technician, Martin Tripp, who claims widespread security flaws in Tesla products. Last year, the Tesla share fell 5% after having made huge gains in previous years.

  Elon Musk's behavior is increasingly out of fashion.
Elon Musk's behavior is increasingly going out of fashion.

Of course it is not always bad to have a known boss. Silicon Valley places 'Founder CEOs' on a special pedestal: Musk is one, like Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon Jeff Bezos, Twitter (TWTR) and Square (SQ) Jack Dorsey, Salesforce (CRM) Marc Benioff and Snap (SNAP) Evan Mirror, just to name a few. The founders are revered as creative visionaries (instead of career papers) and tend to naturally attract legions of admirers, which is confirmed by their great social media.

And Wall Street generally loves them too. "Founder-led companies have a higher level of innovation: on the one hand, these companies generate 31% more patents than the average company in the S & P 500," said Jay Jacobs of Global X, which offers an ETF specifically for founding CEOs. "High levels of equity, backed by an emotional attachment to a business that you've developed from the ground up, can lead founder CEOs to grow their business longer term."

In Musk's case, his (perceived) unique genius As an inventor, combined with a Bad Boy attitude, eye-catching style and a string of glamorous girlfriends, he has won an army of fanboys and made him the most talked-about tech CEO According to data from Hootsuite, which analyzes hundreds of thousands of blogs, social media posts and forums (Jeff Bezos was the second most discussed, followed by Zuckerberg.)

But fame can be a fickle mistress: In 2017 Travis Kalanick, Uber's party boy founder, was named the CEO after months of scandals in his company, due in part to Kalanick's pompous leadership style, disregard for rules, and the brute antics that toppled the company.

"Technology CEOs can withstand tremendous pressure, but if you look at Google's co." It's entirely possible to stay the course while not attracting attention, "said Shannon Wilkinson, an expert on crisis management and reputation. "The brighter the light, the faster it burns out."

In Musk's case, his celebrity status can do more harm than good, and his widely-criticized "Pedo" tweet sent the stock down 4% on Monday Some divers become angry at the distraction as Tesla struggles to crank up the production of Model 3 and become profitable. "Their behavior encourages unhelpful perception of their leadership – thin-skinned and flaring," wrote Gene Munster, a Telsa investor and partner at Loup Ventures, in an unusual open letter to Musk.

Muster asked Musk to apologize, focus on Tesla's business goals, and perhaps take a break from Twitter But this advice has been canceled so far, with Musk tweeting at least 19 times this week.

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