Elon Musk’s management style is notoriously impulsive, toxic and cruel. Onetime employees describe being “tossed to the curb like a piece of litter,” the result of Musk’s “complete lack of loyalty or human connection.” This coldness hasn’t been reserved just for middle management or low-level workers. In 15 years, Tesla has cycled through almost a dozen general counsels. “Maybe it was calculated to keep the rest of the workforce on their toes and scared,” an anonymous former Tesla employee told Musk biographer Ashlee Vance in 2015. “Maybe he was just able to detach from human connection to a remarkable degree.”
Anecdotes like these—and far weirder—have surrounded Musk for decades, almost always with an asterisk: Maybe this was all part of Musk’s master plan. Were his sociopathic actions proof of mad genius or just madness? The value of his companies kept going up, and sometimes his sociopathic management style worked. In 2013, Musk fired many of Tesla’s top lawyers with one sweep and promoted his divorce attorney, Todd Maron, to run the multibillion-dollar company; he turned out to be a good manager, sources inside the company say, and served as general counsel for five years.