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  • Writer's pictureDel Chatterson

Celebrity CEOs – Round 2 - Musk and Zuck

Updated: Feb 23

In the first round of my commentary, Celebrity CEOs versus competent management, it was already evident that although they may be the visionary leader, strategic genius, or marketing magician that they claim to be and are particularly adept at keeping their names in front of us through every media channel available, they are not often also competent at the essential management skills required to deliver the performance that investors, customers, and employees expect.

Even more problematic is the celebrity CEO who becomes a distraction or even an obstacle to corporate performance. I declined to mention any names, but they’re hard to ignore. And the notoriety and public battles for prominence continue.

Most conspicuous has been the personal rivalry between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. Musk even challenged Zuckerberg to a cage match to declare the winner in the battle between Twitter and Facebook. It was never resolved face-to-face, but measured against the standards of financial performance and management competence, The Economist (Feb. 10th, 2024) has declared Zuckerberg the clear overall winner.

Musk has blown-up the $4 billion he invested in Twitter and his most conspicuous success story at Tesla has turned into a continuing disaster with declining revenue, profitability, and stock market value while he slashes prices and grapples with product recalls. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has responded to his challenges with soaring revenues, profitability, and stock market value. Most observers, analysts, and certainly investors, would agree with The Economist.  

The two CEOs have similar brash, arrogant personalities, driven by ego and ambition,  but they have matured with their businesses differently. Zuckerberg has learned to listen to customers, management and staff, regulators and shareholders, subdue his arrogance, and make necessary course adjustments. Musk, on the other hand, has become more stubbornly, (some would say stupidly) independent and more dismissive of contrary opinions and defiant of any regulatory constraints.


He’s losing his loyal cult following in the same way that the famous Canadian celebrity of the 1970s, Peter C. Newman, explained his divorce, “We had religious differences. I thought I was God. She did not.” i.e. Hubris – insolent pride. Impermeable self-confidence and an exaggerated sense of self-importance, infallibility, invincibility.

We might be forgiven for finding some satisfaction in his day of reckoning when it comes, probably from the investors who will soon forget the money they made with Musk and insist on stopping him as the billions evaporate.

Being a billionaire and a celebrity may help you attract investors, employees and customers, but it cannot protect you from bad management and constant ego-stroking.

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.


Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

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