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Uber boss Travis Kalanick shows how a leader should not behave

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In a subsequent email to staff, the Uber boss stated he “must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”

Sometimes even the most inspiring employers have their “off” days – they’re only human after all. But leadership only exists when people want to follow you. While having the honesty and vulnerability to admit mistakes is key to building trust, there are many lessons we can learn from Uber boss Kalanick on how not to behave as a leader.

1) Don’t incite conflict

Conflict can be toxic. Leaders need to nip it in the bud when it arises and certainly not create it in the first place! The fact that conflict occurs isn’t the issue. It’s how you resolve it that matters most. Needing to always be right, holding inflexible opinions and failing to empathise and listen to others are easy traps to fall into. But by going through the process of resolving conflict, leaders learn a lot about their people and themselves – and end up building mutual respect and collaboration.

2) Don’t misdirect your energy and drive

It’s all too easy to get side-tracked by daily distractions in business. The key is to stay focused, on target, and maintain your momentum and drive. This way you don’t loose productivity and waste unnecessary time, energy and resources. Those who master the art of focus find it easy to reach their goals quickly and easily. The secret is to focus on your most important priorities, get your intentions and goals clear and concentrate single-mindedly on them. Use repetition to hard-wire your brain to stay on track, like building a muscle.

3) Don’t lose sight of your humility and the greater purpose

Being humble and having a “quiet ego”, goes a long way. Psychologist Pelin Kesebir once explained that “Humility involves a willingness to accept the self’s limits and its place in the grand scheme of things.” All too often leaders become competitive, attention-seeking and even narcissistic. But leaders with quiet egos are not only better liked, but also more effective.

Bradley Owens, author of a study published in the Academy of Management Journal, confirmed: “Leaders of all ranks view admitting mistakes as being at the core of humble leadership. This behaviour is a powerful predictor of their own as well as the firm’s growth.”

While the Uber boss admitted his mistake: “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.” It is essential leaders move beyond the ego and connect to a greater purpose.

4) Don’t be inconsistent – be persistent, consistent and relentless

Kalanick was accused by the driver of changing the rules all the time. Inconsistency is a guaranteed way to lose leadership credibility and respect – just ask the Uber boss. Saying what you do and doing what you say are critical. If a leader develops a reputation for being inconsistent in words or actions then employees will lose confidence in their ability to lead. Leaders must lead by example with clarified purpose and goals. People feel motivated following leaders who are disciplined and relentless in pursuit of the purpose.

5) Don’t undermine your talent, listen to your team and understand what engages and (literally) drives them

He demonstrated huge resistance to listening to his driver, being more intent on arguing with him than being open to understanding a fresh perspective. All too often leaders invest in talented individuals yet fail to leverage their insight and intelligence. Listening is a hugely under-estimated skill that many leaders would benefit from. Creating stronger understanding and connections by focusing not just on other people’s words but also noticing feelings and emotions and acknowledging they’ve been heard separates average leaders from exceptional ones.

Carole Gaskell is founder of Full Potential Group, specialists in high-impact coaching, team and leadership development

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