It is no secret that the past 12 months have been particularly difficult for Elon Musk. While his companies experienced milestones such as the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy and the ramp of the Tesla Model 3, he has nonetheless courted numerous controversies. Yet, despite all the drama surrounding Musk, Tesla and SpaceX employees have nevertheless voted him as one of the best CEOs of 2018.
Workplace culture and compensation monitoring website Comparably recently published the results of its 2018 Best CEO Awards. The website’s awards are determined from sentiment ratings provided by employees, who anonymously rated their employers on the Comparably.com website. The site’s surveys were conducted between November 26, 2017 and November 26, 2018, with the site compiling almost 10 million ratings from across 50,000 US-based companies this year.
Among the CEOs that were considered, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk came out as No. 19 in the survey’s overall rankings. Musk, apart from GM CEO Mary Barra (who was No.49) were the only CEOs from the auto sector that made it to Comparably‘s list. Musk was also ranked as the 14th most sought-after tech CEO, among 29 chief executives that made it to the Top 50 rankings. Overall, Musk’s 19th overall and 14th in tech rank are quite impressive, particularly as he did not make it to the website’s rankings last year at all. That said, the majority of Elon Musk’s high ratings in Comparably‘s study came from workers at his private space venture.
Looking at the votes from Tesla and SpaceX employees, it was evident that Musk was ranked higher by his workers at SpaceX. On a scale of 0-100, SpaceX employees gave Musk an average score of 83. Those from Tesla, on the other hand, gave him a more conservative 77 out of 100. If Comparably‘s study only focused on Musk’s ratings from his Tesla employees, he would have missed a spot in Comparably‘s Top 50 Best CEOs list once more. In a way, though, Musk’s average rating from Tesla workers is actually pretty admirable, considering that the company had to pass through multiple tribulations over the past year due to the Model 3 ramp.
Part of Elon Musk’s high ratings among his employees is likely attributed to his personal style of leadership. During Tesla’s difficulties with the ramp of the Model X, Musk started sleeping on the Fremont factory’s floor so that he could “lead from the front lines.” He adopted the same strategy in the Model 3 ramp, particularly when the company was pushing its self-imposed manufacturing targets at the end of the second quarter. During this time, anecdotes from the Tesla community even indicated that when the company was setting up GA4 on the grounds of Fremont, Musk could be seen torquing bolts with his employees.
Musk is also never one to shy away from putting the risk onto himself. A report from The Information last month indicated that Musk is Tesla’s resident test mule for its Autopilot software. The publication noted that Musk’s personal vehicle is loaded with a pre-released “development build” of the driver-assist system, which allows the CEO to make the software as aggressive as possible. This has allowed Tesla to identify bugs in Autopilot before improvements are rolled out, though a member of the team has noted that this resulted in Musk finding himself in “situations that many of us wouldn’t want to be in.”
During his recent 60 Minutes segment, Elon Musk noted that Tesla’s workers are the unsung heroes of the Model 3 ramp. Musk also stated that during the most painful periods of the electric sedan’s production, he wanted to make sure that the difficulties he is experiencing are worse than the challenges being faced by his employees. He also defended his workers against the company’s critics.
“There’s been relentless criticism, relentless and outrageous and unfair. Because what actually happened here was an incredible American success story. All these people work their ass off day and night to make it happen. And they believe in the dream. And that’s the story that really should be told. I think there was like literally one week where I actually worked 120 hours and just didn’t leave the factory. I didn’t even go outside. I wanted to make it clear to the team. They needed to see that however hard it was for them, I would make it worse for me.”
Comparably‘s Top 50 Best CEOs of 2018 list could be accessed here.