Three things Uber's CEO needs to do to get back on track

Can the controversial taxi app move on from its past mistakes?

by Simon Hayward
Last Updated: 12 Oct 2017

It’s been a tough time for Dara Khosrowshahi since he was appointed CEO of Uber in August. Things don’t look set to improve anytime soon with reports that Uber’s northern European manager Jo Bertram has now quit, just weeks after London's transport regulator refused to renew the controversial taxi app's licence.  

Khosrowshahi is facing a reality check, something that all CEOs and leaders will do, often more than once in their careers. Admitting when you’re wrong is a sign of strength and something I have learned to be invaluable in business. There’s three key things that Dara Khosrowshahi needs to do to turn this around - here’s where he needs to start: 

Get real and say sorry

Khosrowshahi has outlined his key challenges in his open letter to Londoners. He recognises that Uber needs to change but has not openly apologised for the actions that have brought the company to this point. By admitting mistakes, reaching out to Londoners, and inviting them to work in partnership with Uber, Khosrowshahi could be heralding a new era of transparency, customer-centricity, and collaboration.

However, these words now need to be followed up with immediate and meaningful action if Uber is to succeed. It’s possible Khosrowshahi could become a genuine role model for the values of humility, integrity and passion which he articulates, but the proof of the pudding as they always say, is in the eating. Uber was already facing scrutiny. Following recent events, that scrutiny is only set to intensify.

Admit when you've got it wrong and make a u-turn

It seems that many of Uber’s issues are cultural. At the heart of the culture challenge is trust. Trust between colleagues, between senior executives and colleagues, between customers and companies, between society and companies. When trust breaks down, the fundamentals of business are broken. Amorality can creep in. Businesses succeed when there is a reasonable level of trust between parties. When trust is absent, customers and colleagues are unhappy, the reputation of the business is damaged, and ultimately its ability to grow and prosper is held back.

Khosrowshahi and Uber need to rebuild trust, place positive values at the heart of the business, and create more meaningful connections between the organisation, colleagues, and customers.

Be transparent and listen to the people who matter most

Leaders build this trust through being open, honest, and transparent. More and more, the public expects that leaders will be role models for positive values. In the wake of corporate scandals and economic turmoil, we have witnessed a breakdown of trust in business leaders.

With so much of the world’s media intent on demonising Uber and the company’s practices, the public’s opinion has been influenced and perhaps changed for good. As a society we have become more demanding, and there is an expectation that poor behaviour should not be tolerated, especially from businesses who rely so heavily on custom from everyday users of its product, both as riders and drivers.

It’s time for Uber to change, and change drastically, if it’s set to survive into the next decade, given that it is already banned in France, Spain and Belgium. I for one will be watching with great interest to see how Khosrowshahi handles this one and just hope he chooses to turn the mirror on the company and make changes for good.

Dr Simon Hayward is CEO of international leadership consultancy Cirrus

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