Giving in to temptation is usually a bad idea. So here goes.

A couple of weeks ago I pointed out a few ways Elon Musk is proving himself to be a lousy leader.

In the interest of piling on, I figure a more balanced report card for scoring Musk’s leadership would be helpful. We’ll base it on, predictably enough, yours truly’s eight tasks of leadership: (1) setting direction, (2) delegating, (3) staffing, (4) decision-making, (5) motivating, (6) managing team dynamics, (7) engineering culture, and (8) communicating.

Musk invented two whole industries from scratch – electric vehicles and private-sector space exploration; three if you include PayPal. I admire these successes but know too little about the leadership skills he brought to them for a fair assessment. So I’m going to limit this report card to his performance taking over leadership of a going concern as Twitter’s new “Chief Twit.” With luck you’ll find useful principles you can apply in your own leadership situations. Here goes:

Setting direction: Grade = godawful. F. Couldn’t possible do worse. As pointed out last week, Musk’s decision to turn Twitter into an uncurated bastion of unfettered free speech ignored Twitter’s entire business model – selling access to its subscribers to advertisers. Advertisers, appalled by the noxious content hundreds of Twitter trolls cheerfully posted, figured there are plenty of other avenues for reaching their target markets.

This would have been an F-minus had Musk not just announced Twitter’s new “de-boost and de-monetize approach to hate speech. Who’s going to program it, though, is anyone’s guess. See “staffing,” below.

Delegating: Grade = F. Indicator: All on his own, Musk is turning off a bunch of microservices he’s decided are bloatware. It’s de-delegation by a manager less qualified than the delegatee, a classic mistake. The grade would be worse, except that he earned it in part with his staffing performance, by getting rid of everyone he should be delegating to.

Staffing: Grade = F-minus, and I’m tempted to extend the grading scale to the G range. Firing the entire executive suite plus half the workforce before figuring out what his dearly departed even did has left Twitter without the expertise needed to lead what remains of a workforce that no longer has, according to some reports, even the ability needed to restore failed servers.

Decision-making: Grade = F. Leaders have five basic ways to make decisions – authoritarianism, consultation, consensus, delegation, and voting. Which to use is situational; each has its own characteristics and trade-offs. Musk apparently relies exclusively on authoritarian decision-making – the best choice in a crisis, but in other situations risks creating more crises than it fixes.

Motivation: Grade = F-minus. As pointed out in this space (for example, here), the three most effective leadership demotivators are arrogance, disrespect, and unfairness. I doubt you need me to detail out specific examples of how Musk has practiced each of these.

Managing team dynamics: Grade = C. I really don’t know how to assess this one. I’m giving Musk a C on the grounds that he has, it appears, ignored team dynamics entirely, except for when he’s laid off entire teams.

Engineering culture: Grade = F. Oh, dear. I’d really like to give Musk credit for something, but given that he’s pretty much blown up the entire workforce along with so many of the inter-staff relationships on which culture depends, I’m not sure there’s a culture left to engineer, nor anyone who cares enough about the organization to start rebuilding one.

Communication: Grade = D. Leaders have to listen – one on one and organizational listening. And they need to inform, to persuade, and to facilitate communication among people who otherwise would ignore each other.

Musk did no organizational listening before starting to gut the organization. He has taken steps to inform everyone, whether or not what he was informing them of was at all wise. He’s relied on his authority to persuade, which never works. And I have no evidence to judge whether he’s engaged in any facilitation, but I doubt it.

Bob’s last word: Were Twitter still a publicly traded corporation my last word would be a recommendation that you short the stock.

But it isn’t, and while it might be ancient history, there are lessons to be learned from ancient history. Here? Once upon a time the dominant social network was MySpace. Rupert Murdoch bought it and destroyed it. Customers, unfazed, shrugged and moved to Facebook.

I trust I don’t need to explain the parallel.

Bob’s sales pitch: Speaking of things I probably don’t need to explain, if you’re looking for a deeper view of the eight tasks of leadership, that’s what I wrote Leading IT: <Still> the Toughest Job in the World to provide.

Elon Musk hasn’t read it and look what that did to him.

Now on’s CIO Survival Guide:7 ways CIOs get themselves fired.” Keeping your job as CIO is tough, even when you do everything right. Here are seven ways unwary CIOs make their jobs even riskier.

It’s time to pull out your “I Like Ludwig” t-shirt.

That’s Ludwig as in Wittgenstein, the influential philosopher who pointed out that most sets can’t be unambiguously defined solely through well-defined rules.

Games are an example. There is no list of attributes that accurately classifies solitaire, tennis, football, Dungeons and Dragons, and office politics as games, even though we all know that’s what they are.

Not convinced? (1) Many games are contests against an opponent, but not when you’re playing FreeCell. (2) Many games are played by teams. Not tennis, though. Or FreeCell. (3) Most games have winners and losers. Dungeons and Dragons does not.

As for office politics, like all politics it has game-like characteristics such as having winners and losers. But most games are played for fun. In this day and age there’s little that’s fun about politics of any kind.

Gender classifications – an increasingly contentious issue all working managers must deal with – face the same Wittgensteinian challenge. We each maintain in our subconscious a list of physical and behavioral characteristics we think of as masculine (e.g. hairiness), a different list we think of as feminine (e.g. a higher-pitched voice), and a bunch more that are gender-neutral, for example liking or disliking borscht.

Your feminine/masculine lists and mine probably differ, which is why you and I might find ourselves disagreeing as to your gender, mine, someone else’s, and SNL’s legendary “Androgynous Pat.”

Which leads me to conclude that as a society, and in our HR policies, we’re finding ourselves arguing about the answer to a question that doesn’t have one.

Of more direct relevance to you as a KJR subscriber, we’re expending quite a lot of time and energy on how to deal with gender identification in the workforce. And I’m starting to wonder what the point is.

Never mind the question of whether genes, physiology, specific behaviors, interpersonal attraction, or overall sense of personal identity should be gender’s determinant. That’s of legitimate interest to psychologists, sociologists, maybe those responsible for competitive athletics (and maybe not; it is, as mentioned, a complicated and confusing topic) … and, of course, parents, not to mention the individuals who have or are still sorting out who they are.

It’s also, as we’ve experienced over the past several years, a topic of illegitimate interest for political rabble-rousers who are more interested in scoring points than helping formulate coherent and compassionate public policy – see “politics as a game,” above.

Mercifully, it’s a question that has (I think) a relatively simple answer when the question is how to deal with gender identification in the workplace.

Which brings us to this week’s question to ponder: Why do businesses collect “Gender” as a data field in our HR databases at all? The KJR answer: It’s tradition, and one that long ago outlived its usefulness.

Even if a person’s gender is, in any meaningful way, a predictor of how they would perform in a given role, that would only be a loose correlation at best, and as anyone knows who has passed a class in statistics, statistical significance is entirely different from importance.

So imagine we simply abandoned gender as something we pay attention to in workforce management (marketing and CRM are entirely different matters). Were we to take that step, employees who want their colleagues to identify them as men or women could still choose to dress and behave like stereotypical women or men.

Those who want their colleagues to not care could also dress and behave accordingly.

And those who consider their gender to be both non-binary and something they want a colleague to be aware of could just tell them.

Presumably, nobody would ask a colleague “What gender are you?” on the grounds that the question is (1) nobody’s business, and (2) unbelievably crass.

And if they were that crass, the object of their curiosity ought to answer as follows:


Bob’s last word: I suppose ignoring religion as a dimension of all this would be copping out. And so …

There are those who consider the question of gender to have religious significance, for example the Judeo-Christian bible, which only recognizes men and women as categories. To which I have two observations.

The first is that religion has no place in management, other than a need to accommodate such religion-driven requirements as allowing time for obligatory prayer. The second: Some religions recognize more than two genders.

So unless you think business management should incorporate theology into its HR practices, it would seem that classifying employees by gender is far more trouble than it’s worth.

My legally ignorant solution: Don’t do it.

Now on’s CIO Survival Guide:The successful CIO’s trick to mastering politics.” It’s all about relationships, not just winning and losing. Failing to embrace this fact of organizational dynamics can kill a budding manager’s career.