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What Business School Professors Say About Elon Musk
November 24, 2022
Tesla Founder Elon Musk isn’t all that fond of MBAs
On Oct. 28, Elon Musk completed the deal to acquire Twitter. In the following days, he established himself as CEO, fired top executives, and laid off roughly half of the company’s workforce. Hundreds of Twitter’s remaining employees have since resigned in rejection of Musk’s takeover and his attempts to tear down the current culture and replace it with what he calls “Twitter 2.0.”
One of Musk’s demands for remaining Twitter employees is a full return to office for at least 40 hours a week—a demand that some experts say isn’t the most strategic.
“Removing employees’ choice to work flexibility, effectively using a stick rather than a carrot to motivate workers, is misguided,” Ayelet Fishbach, Professor of Behavioural Science at the Chicago Booth School of Business, tells Business Leader. “Punishment instead of reward will fail to foster a productive mentality and can negatively impact relationships between leaders and employees resulting in communication breakdown and a resistance to teamwork.”
Musk’s leadership style and his demand for a return to office, Fishbach says, ultimately undermine employee motivation and happiness.
“There exists a plethora of alternative ways of recognizing efforts that would make employees feel motivated and engaged and encourage them to return to the office,” Fishbach says. “Recognizing those who return to the office, explaining how office presence is tied to teamwork and ultimately advancement opportunities, and making the office a more rewarding experience, are just a few ways of pulling the carrot instead of the stick. Ultimately, success is about making employees feel recognized and appreciated, rather than excluded and ultimately forced to return against their will.”
A “ONE-OF-A-KIND” CEO
While most experts can agree that Musk breeds a tough, competitive work environment, some say Twitter was overdue for new leadership. Andy Wu, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, is one expert who isn’t counting Musk out quite yet.
“Musk is definitely a hard-charging, impulsive, and risk-tolerant leader, and he’s willing to go for the kinds of changes at Twitter that I can’t imagine any other CEO or entrepreneur going for,” Wu says in an interview with The Atlantic. “I do think there’s some logic to the madness.”
Wu isn’t outright in saying that Musk is a “good” CEO, but he doesn’t necessarily say Musk is a “bad” one either.
“Musk is a one-of-a-kind CEO,” Wu explains. “I will say, on the upside, what Musk has accomplished so far at Tesla and SpaceX is really unbelievable and impressive and really special, as far as his generation of business leaders in terms of the amount of scale and resources needed to mass-produce electric cars and build commercial spaceships. It’s unfathomable, and he actually got there.”
And it’s Musk’s leadership, Wu believes, that is necessary to transform the future of Twitter—or any future it has left.
“The key punch line here is that Twitter was actually in very bad shape and didn’t quite have a future anyway,” Wu says. “In terms of really tough problems, this is the kind of CEO you probably need to try out. Twitter is actually a very, very difficult business challenge that nobody else has been able to solve. So at this point, we might need to, like, swing the car around and see what happens.”
Sources: Business Leader, The Atlantic
MBA students outside class. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova
Five Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) students have been awarded the Siebel Scholarship for exceptional leadership and academic contribution, The Stanford Daily reports.
Siebel Scholars receive $35,000 for their second year of study and join a network of over 1,600 scholars from top schools around the world, including Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, and Tsinghua University. Each year, Siebel Scholars convene at conferences to examine global issues with a network of scientists, lawmakers, and experts in search of solutions to the world’s most urgent problems.
“To date, Siebel Scholars have driven innovations in over a dozen industries, launched more than 1,100 products, authored more than 370 patents, published nearly 40 books, and more than 2,650 articles or book chapters, and managed more than $2.7 trillion in assets,” according to the Siebel Scholars Program. “Siebel Scholars represent the brightest minds from around the globe, bringing together diverse perspectives from business, science, and engineering to influence the technologies, policies, and economic and social decisions that shape the future.”
The Stanford Daily sat down with four of the Class of 2023 GSB Siebel Scholars and delve into each of their accomplishments.
Josh Rowley has a background in the field of private equity investment and is passionate about workforce development and advancing the opportunities of employees.
“One of the values that was instilled in me growing up was intellectual curiosity,” Rowley tells The Stanford Daily. “I loved learning about how the world works, and I found that investing was a really great way to exercise that. I also have always been passionate about aviation and space, and I had a chance to do investing in this sector that I was really passionate about. Finding intersections where you have passions, a skillset and something to offer was a real turning point.”
For Rowley, Stanford GSB has played an instrumental role in supporting his intellectual curiosity and fostering an environment of innovation.
“So many of my peers are focused on starting companies, looking into problems and thinking about interesting ways to solve them,” Rowley says. “The faculty is also unmatched in the academic part of the institution. It is a world-class business education. You get access to the world’s leading researchers, academics and business practitioners. The ecosystem that is created, focused around the classroom, I do not think can be matched anywhere.”
Kate Gautier doesn’t come from a stereotypical business background. She got her start in math and eventually ended up starting a company with her professor from Banard College. Her interests lie in the intersection of data, design, and technology and building solutions for challenges across a wide range of disciplines. What’s special about the Siebel Scholars Program, Gautier says, is the diverse community.
“We get connected with not only our current class of Scholars but also the alumni that have come before us,” Gautier says. “Personally, I am really grateful that it’s an interdisciplinary organization because a lot of really interesting work and interesting thinking is happening at intersections of multiple disciplines. So, to have this scholarship that’s not just about business I think is really great.”
Oliver Babin has a background in investment banking and venture capital. Babin says he ultimately chose Stanford GSB because of the human element that the business school provided.
“Stanford has an amazing school reputation and was always going to be one of my top choices. I think what reinforced it was the entrepreneurship angle of the school and the human aspect which really came through in the application process,” Babin says. “There was a human element that stood out at Stanford. The care and the expectation that everyone has to represent themselves and the organization well come across in every interaction, whether it’s the admissions team, the professors or the people that are involved in clubs. People are really nice and want to do what is best for the school and the students, which is awesome.”
Elizabeth Rosenblatt, J.D./MBA dual degree candidate, is interested in bringing innovation to media and telecommunications markets. Rosenblatt says Stanford GSB’s strong curriculum gave her the skills needed to succeed in business, but it was ultimately the GSB community that got her to where she’s at today.
“I owe much of where I am today to mentors that were willing to give me opportunities to try things outside my comfort zone and provide constructive guidance to help me succeed,” Rosenblatt says. “I would encourage aspiring students interested in business to seek out mentors and constructive feedback and to remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Sources: The Stanford Daily, Siebel Scholars
Military service members typically make up 5 to 10% of any given cohort within the top 25 MBA programs.
But what exactly does it take to get into a top B-school? And what should veteran applicants look out for when researching MBA programs? Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently offered a few tips for veterans who are considering a transition from active military service to B-school.
FOCUS ON FIT
When it comes to the MBA, fit is perhaps one of the most important considerations for applicants. But, Blackman says, fit is even more critical for veteran applicants.
“Their background is quite different from most candidates, and going from active service to a classroom can be challenging,” Blackman says. “Having strong outlets of support from the school makes a world of difference.”
Blackman suggests veteran applicants to do research on what types of support groups or programs are available at B-schools.
“Begin by finding out how many military veteran students are in the MBA program,” Blackman says. “Too few fellow servicemen and women may leave students wishing for more relatable peers. Next, find out what kinds of special programs for veterans exist. Does the business school have student clubs or organizations created specifically for veterans? Also, learn whether it offers personalized academic and career support to help veterans translate their military skills into civilian life.”
LOOK FOR RECRUITING EFFORTS
B-schools will typically have admissions events specifically for military applicants—which is a good sign that the MBA program is military-friendly.
“If the school doesn’t host an admissions event specifically for military applicants, your job is a bit tougher,” Blackman says. “However, you can still determine how eager the program is to recruit veterans by looking at whether it provides support services starting during the application phase—not only once you get in.”
SEEK OUT FINANCIAL AID
Veterans have access to a number of financial incentives, including waived application fees and dedicated veteran scholarship funds. One program that Blackman recommends considering is the Yellow Ribbon Program.
“Under this program, the federal government matches, dollar for dollar, any financial aid that participating schools commit, essentially providing eligible student veterans with free or reduced-cost tuition,” Blackman says. “It is designed to make out-of-state public colleges, private institutions, and graduate programs more affordable for veterans. Schools offer varying levels of support under the Yellow Ribbon Program. For example, NYU Stern School of Business will offer up to $30,000 per year in Yellow Ribbon scholarship support, and the VA will provide up to $30,000 in additional funding. Meanwhile, Stanford GSB will match up to full tuition and mandatory fees (minus Stanford medical insurance) for MBA students who are Yellow Ribbon eligible and opt to receive these benefits.”
Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q
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