SpaceX Co-founder Reveals Elon Musk as a Demanding Boss Unfazed by Rejection


Tom Mueller, a co-founder of SpaceX, who collaborated with Musk for more than two decades, shared that Musk had a dislike for hearing that something couldn’t be done and that he had learned never to decline the billionaire’s challenges.

Since Elon Musk assumed control of Twitter (now called X) last year, his leadership style has garnered significant attention. From discontinuing remote work to urging employees to work longer hours to accomplish tasks, Musk implemented numerous changes at the social media company. When a photo of Esther Crawford sleeping in Twitter’s offices went viral, it drew attention to the challenging working conditions that employees faced. In a related development, Crawford was subsequently terminated by Musk.

However, if you believe that only Twitter employees were required to work extended hours, you might be mistaken. According to the recently published biography of the billionaire written by Walter Isaacson, Musk exhibited an ‘unconventional’ management style at SpaceX. He imposed demanding schedules on engineers and assigned them seemingly impossible deadlines. If anyone suggested that something was ‘impossible,’ they were excluded from future meetings.

SpaceX co-founder Tom Mueller, who collaborated with Musk for over two decades, revealed that Musk disliked hearing that something couldn’t be achieved. Mueller learned never to decline Musk’s challenges and always responded with a willingness to try. Later, if the attempted task proved unworkable, he would explain the reasons to Musk.

Mueller told Isaacson in the biography, “If you were negative or believed something couldn’t be done, you were not invited to the next meeting. He just wanted people who would make things happen.”

The biography also disclosed that when SpaceX was being launched, Mueller had requested Musk to place two years’ worth of compensation in escrow out of fear of the venture failing. Although the SpaceX chief agreed, it implied that he considered Mueller an ’employee’ rather than a co-founder, as Isaacson writes in the book.

Musk’s wrestling bouts with his brother in the office were also detailed in the biography. When they worked together at Zip2, the Musk brothers would often ‘wrestle’ in the office. Zip2 was a software company founded in 1995 by Elon Musk, his brother Kimbal, and Greg Kouri. Essentially, Zip2 was an online business directory resembling the yellow pages, featuring maps and allowing companies to advertise online.

Isaacson recounted that Kimbal Musk once “tore off a hunk of flesh” from Elon Musk’s hand as they wrestled on the floor of Zip2’s office. Kimbal had bitten Elon, fearing that his brother was about to punch him in the face. Following the incident, Elon had to receive stitches and a tetanus shot.

Moreover, such office wrestling incidents were not isolated occurrences. The book revealed that fights between the brothers were a regular sight when they worked in the same office, as there were no private offices at Zip2, and the staff would witness the battles.

Musk’s biography was released on September 12 and unveiled numerous revelations about the tech mogul’s life.

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