How can leaders and executives learn from Elon Musk’s Twitter actions?

Things are not going well for Elon Musk at Twitter. In fact, in December, the technology tycoon had just published a poll on Twitter asking users of the site whether he should step down as head of the business. At the time of writing, 57% said yes. The state of Twitter in recent months has shown a level of turbulence few other organisations have experienced or survived. And it is still not clear what the future of the business is. But is there anything leaders and executives can learn from what Musk has done at the social media giant?

  • Do not forget your stakeholders –
    One of the big mistakes Musk has made at Twitter is to try to shift the platform to an “anything goes” type approach, which has alienated many of the big advertisers. Stakeholders like advertisers are vital to the success of any business – the total lack of consideration Twitter stakeholders are currently receiving from Musk is being reflected in the way they are abandoning the business and how this is undermining any future potential success.
  • A crisis requires communication –
    The cuts to the workforce at Twitter have come as quite a shock, and information about the numbers involved seemed to leak from many different sources. When Musk started tweeting about his reasons for making the cuts, he at least created the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
  • How does your tone and message fit with your target audience?
    Elon Musk employs a casual tone that lands with some people and do not with others. His communication style is unpredictable and is not intended to build trust. Leaders and executives need to focus on how they communicate and how this is likely to land with intended audiences. How can the power of social media be harnessed for positive brand-building? It is a lesson in how not to do this to look at how Musk brainstorms in public and suddenly make impulsive decisions on a whim.
  • Consistency is key –
    It is hard to count the times Elon Musk seems to have decided and then backed down from it. Often this happens via Twitter with his tweets demonstrating a change of heart (see the $20 blue tick verification) or just being deleted. A lack of messaging consistency hurts the business, confuses employees and is off-putting for customers. Clear communication and building trust are essential, and showing up in a consistent way is vital for this.
  • Fill the information gap –
    Elon Musk is the master of the swift response, and there is a positive lesson in that for leaders and executives. Acting quickly when putting information about your business allows you to control the narrative. This should be a coordinated response from the top before others act to fill information gaps about the business.
  • Choose your medium –
    Elon Musk is first and foremost a fan of Twitter and, even before the purchase, was one of their more-active users. It comes, therefore, as no surprise that he would choose to use Twitter as his primary communications tool; it suits his lifestyle and his image as a technology disruptor. However, leaders should consider the benefits of all mediums based on the audience they are trying to connect with and the messages conveyed or outcomes desired. In certain situations, only face-to-face communication will do. If nothing else, it is a graphic illustration of the limitations of text messaging in the corporate world.

Clearwater Advisers are a leading firm of strategic communicators, teaching leaders and executives how to win the hearts and minds of teams and clients. Learn more about how we develop leaders in their careers with our body language tool Personal Presence Analysis.

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