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Elon’s First Weeks at Twitter is a Masterclass in What Not to Do as a New Leader

In case you’ve been asleep at the wheel, it’s been less than a month of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter and things have been chaotic to say the least. He’s laid off over 50% of the staff, introduced product changes that have led to widespread confusion and panic among advertisers (who constitute 90% of Twitter’s revenue) and lost public trust in Twitter as a reliable news source by tweeting links to conspiracy sites. He needs a 100 Day Action Plan and some executive onboarding and he needs it ASAP.

More importantly, to me at least, he’s just been kind of a massive dick to everyone who works for him. It’s no wonder than employees are resigning in droves and voicing their displeasure in some more public settings.

It’s pretty clear that Elon has mismanaged his transition to power in some remarkable ways. Which is hilarious for some, sad for the people that lost their jobs, and a learning lesson for everyone else.

For anyone starting a job as a new boss, whether it’s at a new company  or as a promotion or department switch at your existing company, it’s time to pay attention. If the world’s richest man can’t get away with being a bad leader, neither can you.  

Elon’s First Weeks at Twitter is a Masterclass in What Not to Do as a New Leader

Mistake #1: Refusing to Adjust Your Approach to The Situation

One of the arguments for Elon’s success at Twitter is he’s had so much ‘success’ at other companies. He’s putting people in space! He’s making electric cars that usually work! He invented the shitty version of Venmo! If he can do all that, surely he can make a silly little social media site wildly successful right?

Well…no. The skills required to build those companies are not the same skills required to take an existing company, massive tech company and shape, grow, and reimagine it for the future.

Just because something worked at another company or department, does not mean it will work at a new place. Look at Urban Meyer with the Jaguars or Harry Styles trying to act in real movies. Success in one situation or industry does not guarantee success in another.

Elon walked into Twitter, refused to listen to pretty much any of the 10,000 employees that already worked there, and introduced sweeping changes immediately that were almost universally met with disdain. Twitter is a massive publisher that relies on advertiser support for 90% of its revenue.  That’s nothing like SpaceX or Tesla, which are product focused engineering companies that have a documented disdain for advertising. Why wouldn’t he listen?

Mistake #2: Failing to Get an Early Win

One of the most important things anyone can do as a new boss is get an early W. Whether it’s pushing through an easy initiative or throwing a company paid for happy hour, all that matters is establishing yourself early on as someone who gets things done and understands what his employees want. It’s the fastest way to get everyone on your side.

Just look at Kid Cudi or Jennifer Lawrence. Once you have early success, people think of you as a winner and you can coast for at least 3 – 4 years before people start wondering if they were wrong about you and turn their backs on you. And even then, you’ll still have loyal followers who refuse to admit that you’re maybe just not that talented, driven or worthy of the adoration of strangers.

I’m sorry Kid Cudi, I love you but you’ve coasted off Man of the Moon for like 10 years man.

Let’s take a quick look at Elon’s moves as a CEO:

  1. Introduced a verification system that led to the majority of advertisers fleeing the platform
  2. Removed employee perks like free lunches and working remote.
  3. Fired 50% of the staff, making it more challenging to launch new initiatives and opening the company up to potential lawsuits
  4. Announced that bankruptcy is a very real possibility if things don’t turn around.
  5. Pushed the launch of his biggest initiative, Twitter Blue, back 2 weeks because of all the chaos.

Individually, these aren’t great but together, it does not paint a pretty picture. This dude needs a win and he needs it bad.

Mistake #3: Assuming Your Status Automatically Gets You Respect

Just because you are the boss does not mean that people will respect you or listen to what you have to say. I’ve only been working in an office for 10 years and I’ve seen people make this mistake time and time again.

Someone gets promoted or comes in as a new boss and start implementing rules immediately. They expect people to immediately start listening to them and doing everything that they say just because they are the boss. People either listen but work listlessly and with no morale or become defiant and refuse to follow along out of spite.   

This is what happened to Dolores Umbridge, aka the WOAT.

Do we need to look any further than Elon’s email mandate to his employees earlier this week.

Is anyone surprised that over 75% of employees did not click yes to this email?

This ‘burn the ships’ mentality is cool and all, but not a move that you pull on Week 3 of CEO. Look, there’s a good chance that this email and leadership style works for him at his other companies. But those are place that he built himself, has worked at for years, and has a group of employees that trust and respect him.

WHY WOULD ANYONE AT TWITTER WANT TO WORK 80 HOUR WEEKS FOR SOMEONE THEY DON’T RESPECT OR CARE ABOUT. People don’t want to kill themselves making a rich person richer, especially one who days earlier fired an employee over Twitter.

Instead, let’s look at the greatest leader in American history…Coach Carter.

It’s a similar message. If you’re not here to work hard, follow my rules, and adhere to my message, there’s the door.

But here’s the thing – his Draconian leadership style was for the benefit of his players. In fact, he was actively sabotaging his own “company” (basketball team), because he wanted his players to succeed outside of basketball.

His message is simple – those who stick around for Coach Carter, will end up as better, more successful people in life. There’s a selfish reason to follow him.


It’s simple, if you want people to respect you, do things that get respect. If you want people to work hard for you, treat them with respect.  

People follow leaders.  They don’t follow ideas or products or social media platforms.

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