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Brands in Trouble, Part 573: Uber

Given the United airlines fiasco this week, Uber must be very happy to have the limelight moved away from its own corporate culture meltdowns. Are these events limited to companies in the transportation industry or is it even more prevalent?

So what is it that triggers CEO’s to commit suicidal acts when their businesses appear to be at their peak?  Is it being insulated from those that tell them the truth rather than fake news?  Is it the hubris that seems to necessarily come with leading a large, international organization?

You might think I’m talking about Volkswagen or Samsung or PwC – however, it’s Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (yes, say that last name out loud).  And why this brand is in crisis has everything to do with its corporate culture, something that permeates every corner of a business like a toxic liquid.

Take for example the number of key employees who have left the business since late 2016 including their Heads of Products and AI.  Then there’s the seat on President Trump’s Business Advisory Council.  Next mid-February, we have Uber engineer Susan Fowler posting her blog about the harassment she’s suffered with allegedly minimal action taken by the company’s leadership.

Then there’s the lawsuit with Google’s Waymo which believes one of its senior software engineers took confidential secrets for self-driving cars when he moved to Uber, followed 5 days later by Kalanick’s temper tantrum with his driver on a widely-released video.  And most recently, the company’s Greyball technology to hide their cars from city regulators.

Despite Kalanick’s self-confessed need to grow-up and get some leadership development help (give me a call Travis, since I create these for big companies like yours), it’s just a matter of time before the investors realize what a drain on the company and its share price his leadership is having.

As I said to BBC World News last week, Mr. Kalanick needs to either get fixed, or get out before he suffers the indignity of being pushed by his investors and other stakeholders wanting to ensure the stability of their ecosystem.

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