President Biden and Elon Musk

The past two weeks we have witnessed competing styles of leadership in the actions of President Biden and CEO Elon Musk, and every observer got a clear view of why career politicians are needed in government and career entrepreneurs aren’t needed anywhere near government.

President Biden led the democratic party through the most successful midterm outcomes for the party in close to a hundred years, winning five governorships and extending democratic control of the Senate, and leaving the House close enough to be able to continue implementing his and VP Harris’ agenda over the next two years.

Meanwhile Elon Musk has overseen one of the worst corporate takeovers in modern history. It is so bad that his $46b purchase of Twitter is looking more disastrous by the hour and many financial and technology company experts are publically speculating on when the popular App will shut down.

Leadership for politicians include listening to constituents, giving an audience to all levels of supporters from passionate to transactional, and being available to regular people, small donors and yes, large donors and special interests. Political leadership also include giving an audience to non-supporters because even non-supporters are constituents, voters, and citizens.

Another facet of political leadership is the understanding and awareness of when to lead and when to step back, when to be loud, and when to allow the Vice President to step in.

And when to acknowledge that someone else is the best person to speak and lead on a particular issue, including subject matter expert cabinet members who were hired for their expertise, and not for their relationships with large donors or family members.

President Biden knew when and what to delegate when he asked VP Harris to criss-cross the nation talking about women’s rights, addressing students and younger voters, and to be the face and voice of abortion rights.

Leading by fair is more powerful and lasting than leading by fear. President Biden understands that as did President Obama before him. It was quite the opposite with Trump, of course, who as a failed president and executive, continues to threaten former staff and supporters.

Fair lasts but fear stops progress. Fair may take longer to produce results, but those results will be lasting and beneficial. Fear may generate instant change that resemble positive results, but those results do not last and often lead to loss of revenue, market position, growth and, most devastatingly, jobs and careers.

By sharp contrast, CEOs like Elon Musk and Donald Trump’s leadership turned them both into global laughingstocks.

Musk is being laughed at following a series of public decisions that showcased his incompetence as a leader, communicator, change-agent, disrupter, innovator, and engineer.

They also showed him to be a narcissistic jerk. Just like Trump.

He has berated and fired staff online after tit-for-tat Twitter exchanges, implemented then ended the disastrous verification change that allowed anyone to get a blue check and verified for $8.00 a month.

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The verification fiasco alone would have gotten anyone but the owner fired for cause since it resulted in actual financial harm to public businesses, the spreading of racism, white supremacy and antisemitism, and caused the stock of his own company, Tesla, to tank.

His actions also harmed many public companies and brands, leading to a mass exodus by advertisers. Combined with advertisers who left following the rampant racism his freewheeling changes unleashed, Musk is desperate to find additional sources of revenue.

The company is now purportedly worth between $8b and $15b. The Tesla stock has tanked, trading under $200 ($192 at print) after reaching a 52-week high of $402.

Musk’s leadership has cost him personally, his companies, and other companies billions in losses. And yet his supporters believe he is playing 3-D chess when in actuality, he isn’t even playing marbles.

The word genius is given to people like Musk far too frequently.

Musk isn’t a creator or inventor. He is the guy who gets in front of parade he didn’t start, and marches as if he created the parade, paved the street, created the instruments, sewed the costumes, and used his prodigious lungs to inflate the floats.

Musk has fired half of the senior engineers, most of his executive staff quit, he’s actively on Twitter firing staff in real time in front of the world, and he’s also asking fired staff to return because he lost so much institutional knowledge the Twitter team are having problems maintaining basic App functionality.

That’s not leadership. What we are witnessing is incompetence and failure to execute his management, fiduciary, and leadership responsibilities. Again, just like we saw when Trump was president.

Were Musk not the owner/COE of Twitter he would be out of a job.

America has flirted with the CEO president far too long and each time the country voted in a CEO — whether George W. Bush or Donald Trump, the nation has suffered.

Running government for the people is not equal to running a corporation for investors. The public interest is a greater calling than private financial returns. And being accountable to constituents and the co-equal branches of government requires more skill and discipline than being accountable on quarterly calls to Wall Street.

President Biden and VP Kamala Harris do the work and produce the results that are designed to help all Americans and American businesses. Elon Musk and other CEO’s serve their investors while enriching themselves and not paying taxes.

The President and VP show leadership by ignoring the hate directed at them. They remain focused on what they were elected to do: fix the economy, create more jobs, restore America’s international standing, manage Covid-19, expand healthcare, protect women’s rights and voting rights, fund infrastructure projects, confirm judges, and help democratic candidates from all parts of the big tent.

The team represent the best type of leadership:

Clear vision

Detailed mission

Specific actions that support mission

Manage by fair not by fear

Direct and frequent communication

Timely and smart delegation

Praise in public, course correct/reprimand in private

Ongoing support, review, and reassessments

Timely feedback, reward, and recognition

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Elon Musk’s leadership has mismanaged the takeover of a social media company and opened himself up to lawsuits from private business and governments around the world, and left his shareholders and investors furious as they watch their investments flitter away.

There is no comparison between a skilled politician and corporate CEO.

Elon does leadership wrong in numerous damaging ways:

Unclear communication

Manages by fear, not by fair

Reprimand and fire in public

Traffics in unserious communication

Reactionary decisions not fact-based decisions

Self-congratulates in public

Changes decisions on a whim

Contradicts himself, refuses to listen to feedback

Believes he alone has all the answers

Writes garbage like this to his staff:

President Biden’s administration should once and for all put to rest that America needs a CEO president. Elon Musk has proven, definitively, that CEO’s belong in the boardroom and not on the ballot.

The shitstorm that is Twitter right now tells us all we need to know about many CEOs not named Elon Musk. Many of us have worked or are working for men just like Musk. Know-it-all savior men, almost exclusively white and male, who believe that only they have the answers and solutions.

American industry is riddled with the same type who arrive at companies promising NEW! BETTER! RESULTS! which when translated to front line jobs, mostly mean SAME OLD THING! WORSE! LAYOFFS!

We see it with Facebook/Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing he’s laying off eleven-thousand employees right before Christmas. Mark made certain to let his fired employees know how hard it was for him to fire them all.

You won’t see President Biden gloating about firing people. We won’t see him laughing at anyone’s misery. And we definitely will not see him or VP Harris screaming online about the attacks, lies, threats, or bad-faith media not recognizing their accomplishments.

We cannot say the same of Elon Musk who spends a large portion of his day arguing on Twitter when he’s not firing employees on Twitter.

The next two years will present many opportunities for President Biden and VP Harris to show leadership and deliver on the their campaign promises and the commitments they have made to party leaders.

They will deliver for their constituents and all Americans because that is what good leaders leaders do.

We will follow their actions, words, and results from now until 2024 when the dynamic duo will run for and win a second term.

But we probably won’t be able to follow the next election on Twitter since with Elon Musk as “leader” the popular App may not be in business.

But even if Twitter survives in some fashion, and whether or not Elon Musk is still owner, there will still be CEOs in all industries who behave as irrationally and with malice just like we are witnessing with Elon Musk and just as we saw with Donald Trump.

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