‘Doing an Uber’: How leadership affects culture




Neil Bayley

This week our corporate director Neil Bayley spoke to PR Week about the recent resignation of Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick and how this could consequently affect the brand’s core values.

 “Uber is certainly a business that makes things happen.

Over the past 18 months I’ve heard a number of CEOs, across sectors ranging from aviation to retail, talk about their admiration for the company.

‘Doing an Uber’ has almost become part of leadership vernacular. So I wonder if the resignation of Travis Kalanick also gave them some sharp perspective on their critical role in shaping culture?

A global leadership survey by US consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton and the Aspen Institute across 365 companies in 30 countries highlighted the key role played by leaders in creating value out of values.

85 per cent of respondents said their companies relied on explicit CEO support to reinforce values and 77 per cent said it was the ‘most effective’ way to demonstrate the company’s ability to act on its values.

So, if CEOs are accountable for values as much as they are strategy or performance, if corporate culture is called into question, shouldn’t they face the same level of pressure for change?

Uber has always inducted new starters in its values through a unique “Uberversity”.

The values have been treated as a closely guarded secret that intrinsically contribute to competitive advantage.

But when they asked a former US attorney general to investigate their culture after the well-publicised allegations of sexism and sexual harassment, his report concluded their values were wrong.

Board member Arianna Huffington even suggested some of the values had been “weaponised”, driving bad behaviour rather than shaping good.

Mr. Kalanick reportedly said he loved Uber more than anything in the world. That seems to have been part of the problem.

A modern leader needs great passion, combined with a cool head and sound judgement.

Leadership shapes culture, so turmoil at the top is destabilising and needs tackling for a business to move forward with confidence.

Uber is a remarkable business, admired for its disruptive impact and momentum.

I’m confident it will remain on course as it searches for new leadership, develops a fresh set of values and recalibrates its culture.

However, I would be surprised if it didn’t try to be more transparent in explaining how its people are being encouraged to create shared value through their work.

After this recent episode it needs to rebuild some trust amongst its stakeholders, because strong trust will be the foundation for its long-term prosperity.”
Read the full PR Week article here. 

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Neil Bayley photo

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