Clearly Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hasn’t grown up yet. | Tolero Solutions
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Clearly Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hasn’t grown up yet.

Clearly Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hasn’t grown up yet.

It’s been a rough few months for Uber.

After it surfaced that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick argued with an Uber driver over falling fares – resulting in Kalanick apologizing for his behavior and saying he needs to grow up – the following happened:

  • Susan J. Fowler – Engineer quit Uber after her claims of sexism and harassment were not taken seriously by the company
  • Engineering executive – Amit Singhal – was asked to resign due to sexual harassment allegations from his previous job at Alphabet Inc’s Google.
  • Ed Baker – Uber’s VP of Product and Growth – resigned.
  • As did Uber’s security researcher – Charlie Miller.
  • Jeff Jones – Uber’s CEO who was on the job less than 7-months – also resigned.
  • Eric Holder – Former U.S. Attorney General was hired to investigate the “culture” and harassment claims.

Jones stated: “I joined Uber because of its mission, and the challenge to build global capabilities that would help the company mature and thrive long term. It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.”

Clearly Kalanick didn’t get the leadership help he said he said he was going to get and clearly he hasn’t grown up yet. If so – you wouldn’t see such mass turnover at the top. Or this much bad publicity forcing the company into crisis management mode.

I’m not sure what Eric Holder’s report is going to show regarding culture, however, I don’t feel an investigation is needed to show that culture is created by leadership. Leaders create culture, especially Founders. Culture is influenced by how leaders get work done – their beliefs, personal styles, skills etc, all play a role in developing culture. And, particularly with start-ups, it all begins at the top.

If you have a toxic culture you most likely have a leader who contributes in some way…(cough, cough – looking at you Travis!)

Ariana Huffington – an Uber board member – said that Kalanick must ‘absolutely not’ go and that “people shouldn’t be judged by their worst moments.” Well – if he must ‘absolutely not’ go – then he better do something to make sure he stops having his worst moments and has more of his best moments. As a leader, he needs to work first on improving himself, and then, begin to apply knowledge and experience to change the culture of Uber – before it’s too late for investors to recoup their investment.

As I’ve said before – whether you’re Travis Kalanick or the leader of any organization that is big or small – there are many ways to be a better leader.

Top 5 ways to be a better leader:


Great leaders are honest, open, and transparent with employees and stakeholders. When making strategic decisions, determining organizational changes or facing issues that impact employees, successful leaders are transparent about how these matters arose, their thought process for dealing with them, and how their solutions may directly impact those they lead.


Good leaders just own it – the good or the bad! Be a grown up, be an honest, transparent, accountable, and authentic leader – ALL the time – not just when issues arise. Acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly as planned – and don’t whine and make excuses – but let employees and customers know you see it too. Make an effort to relate to what employees or customers are going through, share next steps you plan to take to re-evaluate and improve. That’s what builds trust in a leader – and trust in leadership is correlated to high performing organizations with committed employees, loyal customers, and increased performance and profit!


Speaking of trust…trust is a fundamental behavior for any successful relationship, both personal and professional. Trust and confidence in leadership are the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization. Trust must be earned. Leaders can earn employee trust by helping employees understand the company’s overall business strategy, informing them how they contribute to achieving key business goals, and sharing information with employees on how the company is doing.  And how an employee’s own division is doing relative to organizational objectives. It is much easier for employees to trust a leader that shows an interest in them – a leader who is transparent and accountable – as opposed to one who belittles them.


Successful leaders have a heightened level of self-awareness; they have an understanding of themselves, their behaviors and actions, and how those behaviors and actions are interpreted by, and directly impact, employees – and customers. Professional coaching is also a great way to help further develop leader self-awareness. Let’s hope Travis finds himself a good coach. Be proficient and competent, know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, and do take responsibility and lead by example. Always be open to further growth and learning.


To be a truly great leader requires taking action – not just strategic and tactical decision making. Take action to increase your positive behaviors and decrease those with a potential negative impact. Take action to engage with employees, stakeholders and customers. Training, coaching, and mentoring are all great ways to increase and develop new skills that can have a positive impact on those you lead. Take action towards constant growth and improvement and let your employees and customers see your continued growth. This behavior helps prevent failure – and as I’m sure Uber is aware – they can’t afford to fail.

Learn more on how to be a great leader here: Leadership Checklist.

So far – it seems Travis Kalanick hasn’t learned his lesson. For the sake of his investors, employees, and the brand he helped create – here is hoping he makes some personal and organizational changes before it’s too late.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still using Lyft until things change. (P.S. They’re cheaper, too!)

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – a Leadership Effectiveness & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business. 

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