Uber Has A Leadership Problem

From outside the company, it appears Uber is in a death spiral. Its problems start at the top.

Uber has lost most of its leadership—it has COO, CFO, CMO, or General Counsel — including its co-founder and force of nature CEO, Travis Kalanick, and several board members. When announcing the leadership shake-up, the board indicated that Uber would be led by an executive council — leadership by committee.

This is a terrible idea.

Instead, Uber should establish a clear leadership architecture, staff it appropriately, and hold people accountable. This is the hard work of company building, even if you lead a Silicon Valley darling like Uber.

Startup leadership is hard work. Each team has its own journey and unique dynamic. Each leader invariably faces difficult decisions and unclear choices. The leader’s job is to make sense out of chaos; align interests; inspire teammates and partners; and produce results.

One thing is absolutely true: you cannot have a truly great company if you do not have great leaders.

But what are the characteristics of a great leader?

People answer this question differently, but here a few thoughts from the team at Capital:

Integrity

Leaders should do the right thing, especially when it is difficult.

Resourcefulness

Leaders should do more with less.

Empathy

Leaders should understand and care about their teammates and customers.

Example

Leaders should set an example through their action.

Ownership

Leaders should own their behavior and the performance of their teams.

These days, a startup’s operating ethos — where technology and scale are first, last, and everything — is somehow disconnected from leadership. With the right technology, a startup can make catch lightning in a bottle — even break industries or capture markets — but leadership is another thing all together.

The best companies know this; sadly, too few are able to execute against it.