Do all writers and opinionators suffer from this?

I’m talking about what I probably shouldn’t call Pundits’ Tiresomeness Syndrome (PTS). I shouldn’t call it that because the compulsion to coin the phrase is a symptom of the underlying malady.

PTS is a complement to the need discussed in this space a few weeks back, where the need to matter leads to an inability to make polite conversation. I’m pretty sure I suffer from this because I hear myself, from time to time, punctuating a conversation with the deadly phrase, “I’ve written about this from time to time and …”

The implication, try as I can to avoid it, is that my views on the subject are more listen-worthy than those of anyone else I happen to be conversing with at the time.

It’s more or less on a par with the late, lamented Dr. Science, who explained why his explanations were worth paying attention to: “I have a masters degree … in SCIENCE!”

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I knew a guy, once upon a time, who suffered from a severe case of PTS. No matter what the subject, and no matter how technically nuanced the subject, his go-to conversational gambit was “I have a theory about that. To the extent I was conversant with the subjects he would theorize about, I was pretty sure “his” theories were at least 50 years old and long-since superseded.

Did I say he suffered from PTS? To be precise, everyone around him suffered from it.

Then there was the CIO I knew who informed his leadership team that from that point forward his management team members should all think of him as just another member of the team. That was just before he said, “For example, here’s a situation we have to deal with, and here’s what I think we should do about it.” Hearing his solution took the rest of the management team meeting. It was PTS at its finest.

Among PTS’s symptoms, perhaps the worst is that it’s far from incurable. Quite the opposite, most of us sufferers know the cure.

It’s to ask a question. A question, and to be clear I’m talking about open-ended questions, not debate-style accusatorial ones, demonstrates interest in other people’s knowledge and perspectives.

This well-known cure … perhaps “treatment” would be a better term … has the fringe benefit of exposing the PTS sufferer to new and potentially interesting ideas.

It also takes advantage of a strange, paradoxical quirk of human perception: If I ask someone a question about themself, their post-question perception of me is that I’m a more interesting person than I was before I asked the question.

What’s most difficult in all this lies in another, socially dismal symptom: We find that understanding what someone else is trying to explain to us takes, as the years to by, an increasing expenditure of energy.

Explaining my views, that is, takes less effort than understanding yours.

Bob’s last word: In case the managerial point isn’t clear, it’s that as a leader and manager, you’re far better off asking your staff what they think about a subject … any subject … than you are telling them what you think about it.

You can certainly share your views, but you’ll be far more persuasive if you wait to share them until you’ve done enough listening first.

Bob’s sales pitch: If you’ve been paying attention you’ll understand there’s little likelihood that I’ll speak my last word on any subject any time soon.

And just to make sure we’re still friends, I really do value the anecdotes, knowledge, and opinions KJR’s subscribers share with me, whether through email or the Comments.

PTS or no PTS, I want to hear from you. Now showing in’s CIO Survival Guide:5 Ways CIOs will disappoint their CEOs in 2003.”

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.