March 17, 2019 by Guest contributor
Originally posted on EVANNEX.
By Shankar Narayanan
2018 was both a creepy and rewarding year for Elon Musk and Tesla employees – painful because Elon Musk remained rooted in unnecessary controversy, Twitter battles and more; and rewarding because Tesla not only doubled its production in 2018, but also succeeded in finding a new demand to match the rising production.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, Tesla delivered 90,700 Model 3, Model X and Model S passenger vehicles. This is a large number when you believe that the disruptive EV manufacturer only supplied 103,020 units for the whole year in 2017.
Hamish McKenzie, a former member of Tesla's communications team, recently commented on Musk's recent escapades:
"It has sometimes been tempting to join those celebrating their recent public embarrassment. I think we can say with certainty that he is the only leader who has achieved the rare trifle being sued over a tweet and call a British cave diver a "pedo," and smoke a part of an interview on the camera, and now he's in hot water again with the SEC over another tweet, but my basic position is not changed since 2014. We should hope he succeeds. "
Despite all the controversies that Musk has been shrouding over the past 12 months, there has been a clear signal that the people he leads at Tesla and SpaceX – a significant majority of them – believe in his leadership.
In a recent study by Blind, a social network for the workplace, it turned out that no less than 3 in 4 Tesla and SpaceX employees believed that Musk had in him taking the two companies forward. The statement was a simple one, requiring a true or false answer: "I am sure Elon Musk's ability to lead the business."
Knowing Musk's penchant for off-the-cuff, often caustic remarks that could create intimidation within Tesla's board (and its investor community), would you think employees' opinions would reveal a mixed bag. In a way, they do, but they also confirm Musk's ability as a leader, not just as a maverick entrepreneur with a flair to rub people in the wrong way.
The study runs from 14-21. January 2019 and was answered by 1,400 Tesla and 250 SpaceX employees, who are also users of the Blind app. Here are the results:
- 77.82% selected "Yes", while only 22.18% chose "No"
- The total number of respondents was 284, with 221 positive and 63 negative responses.
|Tesla / SpaceX||221||63||284||77.82%||22.18%|
Musk is now faced with possible penalties and other fallback effects of his latest tweets about model 3 production, but at least the study shows us that most of his employees have their backs. Exactly how much it is worth is another matter entirely, but it is helpful to know that his people still rely heavily on him as their leader.
As it stands now, the SEC is in a bit of a pickle. They will probably not remove him as CEO because it would have serious implications for investors. "SEC President Jay Clayton argued at the time of the original October settlement that taking Musk out of Tesla can also hurt investors as he is so important to the company. It would be anathema to the regulator's mission to protect investors."
Part of this settlement was that Musk would continue as CEO of Tesla and it would be counterintuitive if the SEC were to revise the decision at this time.
No one really knows which direction it will take, but it is clear that the SEC sees Musk's every action very close, which will certainly make Elon's Twitter life more difficult. But what can continue to strengthen Elon's conviction is his employee's support in him and the mission as a whole. After all, when the team has your back, it can give the extra bit of determination to push through short-term challenges to focus on the big picture.
Shankar Narayanan is the editor of 1redDrop.com. He holds an MBA from Kent State University and an engineering degree from Madurai Kamaraj University. He has been an active contributor to the best financial sites like SeekingAlpha and GuruFocus, and has a sense of speaking business, finance and technology.