Elon Musk is “well out of his depth” at Twitter and a “bully management culture” will not work there, says a former Facebook boss.
An early investor in SpaceX, Chris Kelly is “mostly an Elon fan” but said strategies that worked at Musk’s other companies won’t translate on Twitter. Kelly made the comments at Big Ideas Live, a Sky News event held on Saturday in London.
“He’s capable of doing some pretty incredible things, but has gotten into an area that’s way out of his depth and thinks a bully management culture can change that — and that’s not going to work at a company like Twitter,”[ads1]; Kelly said . “I’ve certainly seen some movement in driving leadership from Elon at Tesla and SpaceX before, but I’m surprised this was the approach. He should have taken a much more targeted approach when he took over.”
Dex Hunter-Torricke, a former SpaceX communications manager who now advises Facebook on moderation as part of Meta’s oversight board, shared Kelly’s sentiments.
“Making very quick, knee-jerk decisions about content policy is probably not the right way to go,” Hunter-Torricke told Sky News.
Musk wasted no time in making major changes to Twitter following his $44 billion takeover of the social network. He quickly fired top executives and then about half the company. He awkwardly asked some of those laid off to come back, after realizing they were still needed.
On Wednesday, Musk sent an email to all Twitter employees telling them to be “extremely hardcore” and work “long hours at a high intensity.” He then said that employees could either agree to this or quit. Those on board were asked to register their interest via a link included in the email by Thursday evening. On Friday, it turned out that between 1,000 and 2,000 employees had not clicked “yes”.
Meanwhile, changes Musk has made to the platform have confused companies, lawmakers and celebrities, among others.
Many companies have suspended advertising on Twitter, wary that hateful content will increase under Musk, a self-described “free speech absolute.”
Some firms, including drugmaker Eli Lilly and defense contractor Lockheed Martin, have been victims of Musk’s Twitter verification fiasco, where pranksters were able to impersonate the companies. That was thanks to a new $8 monthly subscription service that let any account look “verified.” Twitter stopped the service days after the launch, and the relaunch is not expected until later this month.
“Elon is willing to try a lot of things — many will fail, some will succeed,” said Esther Crawford, a Twitter employee who worked on the verification overhaul. “The goal is to find the right mix of successful changes to ensure the long-term health and growth of the business.”
But Kelly believes Musk’s style will hurt the company in the long run, saying at the event today: “The massive cutbacks and chainsawing that Elon Musk has brought to the company does not bode well for the future.”
Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter will examine how ESG news and trends are shaping the roles and responsibilities of today’s leaders – and how they can best navigate these challenges. Subscribe here.