Elon Musk's biggest problem is painfully obvious to anyone who read his bombshell emotional interview with The New York Times on Thursday. 

In a wide-ranging conversation in which the Times reported Musk choked up multiple times, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX spoke of working 120 hour weeks, spending his entire birthday in the Tesla Factory, and nearly missing his brother's wedding.

"This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career," Musk told the Times.

It helps to explain a trend with Musk over the past year. The iconoclastic entrepreneur has always garnered plenty of attention, but lately it's been due to his mercurial behavior rather than his companies' audacious ambitions and accomplishments.

First there was the obnoxious lecturing of reporters on a Tesla conference call. Then came a battle over social media with a member of the team that extracted a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave system in which Musk called the man a "pedo guy," as in pedophile. Finally, Musk recently tweeted, out of nowhere, his plans to take Tesla private at $420 a share.

Musk revealed in the interview that the latter happened as he was driving himself to the airport and was done without clearance from anyone else on the Tesla team. 

My guess is that most people who read the whole Times article will reach the same conclusion I have and that Musk clearly has not: This man seriously needs to learn how to delegate, and now.

He is chair and CEO of Tesla, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX, and that's to say nothing of his side projects like the Boring Company and Neuralink. All this and he's also texting while driving himself to the airport?

Even if his Tesla was on autopilot mode, last I checked the driver is still supposed to be alert and probably not tweeting things that will quickly become the subject of a federal investigation.

"Musk's uncontrolled utterances put himself and the board into potential jeopardy and likely mean ugly times ahead for company investors."

Again, this could have been avoided if Musk was willing to delegate, or at least deliberate with other members of his team on important moves.

As for the episode involving the Thai soccer team, perhaps that inflammatory tweet was related to his clear burnout, but more to the point: Musk delivered a custom-made submarine for the rescue effort in person...to Thailand.

The sub went unused and Musk went on to visit China for business, but still....

A very telling moment in the interview came when Musk denied there is an active search to find a second-in-command to take on some of his day-to-day responsibilities, contrary to other reporting.

"If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now."

And there it is. Musk thinks he is the only person for the jobs.

He's probably right that no one can do better, but that might be because no single person can do the insane job description he's constructed for himself and that is now consuming him.

The struggle to learn to delegate with entrepreneurs is well documented, perhaps even more so now that we have a new, high-profile case of what happens when a leader fails to do so.

Published on: Aug 17, 2018