Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Larry Page need to grow up, says Scott Galloway. To weather the ongoing public backlash against big tech, the NYU professor thinks the CEOs of Tesla, Twitter, Alphabet and other major tech companies need to get their act together.
"These individuals in the tech industry, in my view, are not acting like men, they're acting like children," says Galloway, a successful serial entrepreneur and marketing guru who is a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.
Galloway has founded multiple companies, including New York City-based L2 Inc., a 150-employee business intelligence firm that sold to research company Gartner for an undisclosed amount in 2017. He's also served on the boards of companies such as Eddie Bauer, Urban Outfitters and The New York Times Company.
One big problem, according to Galloway, is that these tech CEOs had previously received so much adulation — from the media, customers and investors alike hailing them as genius innovators. At a certain point, he says, it's easy to get caught up in the praise and believe your own hype to the point that you think the rules no longer apply to you.
"In our society, we no longer worship at the altar of kindness and character, we worship at the altar of innovators and billionaires," Galloway tells CNBC Make It. "And our new heroes are people like Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey or Larry Page from Google. But, I would argue that they're not acting like adults and they're not acting like men."
He adds: "If you're successful, you'll find it's really easy to begin to believe how just f------ awesome you are. Real men realize that nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems [and] success and greatness is accomplished in the agency of others."
Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has been the subject of a string of negative headlines in recent months, from reportedly poor conditions for Tesla factory workers to a defamation lawsuit after Musk called a British rescue diver a "pedo guy." Musk was also criticized for drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana during a podcast interview.
Now, the SEC has slapped Musk with fraud charges alleging Musk issued "false and misleading" statements when he tweeted in August that he'd secured financing to take Tesla private before later walking back those claims. On Thursday, Musk called the SEC's charges "unjustified."
Galloway's advice to Musk is to "put down the blunt."
Twitter and Google, along with other internet giants like Facebook, have faced quite a bit of criticism in recent years over issues like user privacy, online harassment, and data breaches — to name a few. Twitter CEO Dorsey recently endured a congressional grilling on Capitol Hill over topics such as Russian election meddling and claims of political bias by Twitter. Meanwhile, Page (who co-founded Google and now serves as CEO of parent company Alphabet) avoided testifying before Congress on many of those same issues, and he has instead sent Google CEO Sundar Pichai to meet with lawmakers.
Galloway criticized Page and Google for not sending a representative to testify in front of Congress sooner. "Respect for institutions, humility — this is what makes a man," Galloway tells CNBC Make It.
Galloway thinks these tech CEOs need to hold themselves more accountable for the issues that have led to the public backlash against executives like Musk and companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook.
It's more important than ever for prominent business leaders to act like adults and check their egos at the door, Galloway says. "Show up on time, put on a tie, be kind, do not throw your weight around."
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