Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's Apology Means Nothing Without Action | Tolero Solutions
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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s Apology Means Nothing Without Action

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s Apology Means Nothing Without Action

Uber’s CEO – Travis Kalanick – apologized via the company’s blog for his conduct while arguing with an Uber driver last February. The encounter captured by dashcam shows the CEO in a heated debate with Uber driver Fawzi Kamel over the price of fares and how that is impacting his income.  Kalanick ultimately says: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”

Wow, Travis.  You sure know how to motivate your workforce. With that attitude no wonder some staff think it’s acceptable to try and cover up leadership and culture issues such as sexual harassment.  And, no wonder your valuation is dropping.

Part of Kalanick’s apology included:  “It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

After watching that video, as a leadership effectiveness and organizational change practitioner, I agree with Travis! Props to him for admitting it – or at least to his investors and PR team for telling him to apologize and take some accountability. Kalanick has some work to do here. He does need to grow up and he also needs to grow as a leader.

I hate to break it to him, however, his apology means nothing without action. For businesses to have increased growth they need engaged and happy employees and customers. For employees to be highly engaged brand evangelists, they not only need to believe in the mission of the company, but they also need to believe in and trust their leadership. The same goes for customers. People need to see action.

If Kalanick is serious about getting leadership help – and not just paying lip service – here are 5 tips that can help him do so, and in turn, perhaps help change the culture of Uber:


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.

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

Will Travis and Uber learn a lesson from his recent behavior – maybe and maybe not – however other leaders sure can!

At the end of the day – an organization’s success or failure starts with its leadership. I commend Travis for making his statement of accountability. I’ll keep an eye and ear out to see what actions he and Uber take toward improvement.

Until then – I’m using Lyft.

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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