What We Can All Learn from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and His Drivers’ Mistakes
Recently, the CEO of online transportation network company Uber, Travis Kalanick, found himself in some hot water of his own making when dashcam video of a confrontational conversation he had with one of his Uber Black drivers leaked online.
The video, which was obtained by Bloomberg and is embedded below, puts 40-year-old Kalanick’s true colors on full display and reveals him to be extremely out-of-touch with the day-to-day reality of his lower-level employees who have witnessed their fares be cut from $20 to around $11 in recent years, a fact which I find to be quite shocking, considering that it was only about a decade or so ago that Kalanick, now worth approximately $6.3 billion dollars, was once flat broke and living out what he calls his “blood, sweat, and ramen” days.
In the video, Kalanick, who is accompanied by two women, loses his temper when his driver, Fawzi Kamel, dares to tell him the story of how Uber’s falling fares have cost him $97,000 and caused him to go bankrupt. Rather than respond to Mr. Kamel’s concerns in an apologetic or sympathetic tone, as one would expect a self-made billionaire who not too long ago was living at home with his parents to do, Kalanick responded with the following:
“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”
These two lines, more than any other in the entire video, set social media ablaze, with comments critical of Kalanick and Uber, such as the following, being made in direct response to the leaked video on Bloomberg’s YouTube channel:
- “Lol at the people siding with a sociopathic CEO over a low-paid worker.”
- “Kalanick shows his true, bratty, elitist personality in the last 15 seconds. What a prick.”
- “CEO treating staff like shit, typical these days :(”
- “deleting Uber right now.”
- “What a fucking piece of shit CEO and he’s out with whores – all corporate executives should die of cancer like Steve jobs”
Not to be outdone by Kalanick’s critics, in the same batch of YouTube comments there can be found those made in defense of the embattled billionaire and his corporate policies:
- “no one is forcing anybody to drive for uber . a lower price will help out the average consumer. im taking CEO’s side TBH”
- “Much ado about nothing! I actually give Kalanick props for being wiling to discuss his company with a driver.”
- “I think the CEO behaved well and listened to the driver, think he is right some people like to blame everything on other people, the driver should be thankful that because of that guy he has a job, he just wanted to argue and record it so he could upload it to youtube. The CEO can do whatever he wants with his company that’s why he is the CEO, if you don’t like what he’s doing then don’t work for UBER and stop complaining .”
In response to all of this uproar on both sides of the proverbial fence, Kalanick sent out an apologetic e-mail to his employees company-wide in which he stated the following:
“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me, and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
“My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”
So what can we like-minded, success-oriented individuals here at Manifestation Machine glean from this situation? I think there are three big takeaways here—two relative to Kalanick’s behavior and one relative to Mr. Kamel’s:
TAKEAWAY # 1: KALANICK HAS A VALID POINT WITH REGARDS TO PEOPLE NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEMSELVES AND BLAMING OTHERS FOR THEIR PROBLEMS
As I always say, and as is the foundation of all of my success-oriented teachings, personal responsibility is the cornerstone of all success. Despite this, most people (probably some 90-95% of people on this planet)—and not just some people, as Kalanick claims—are unwilling to take responsibility for themselves (i.e.: for the five things we have control over in our lives: Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, words, and actions) and would much rather blame anyone and anything other than themselves for their “problems”. As a result, they rarely find themselves “successful”, even by their own definition of the word, and on the off-chance that they do, they are apt to lose whatever they may gain by way of their success just as fast as they find it.
While Kalanick may be many things, including full of himself and out-of-touch with reality in many ways, it can never be said, assuming that one does their research into his background, that the man hasn’t exerted conscious control over the things he has control over to get to where he is today. The fact that this man, a man who lived with his parents well into adulthood, subsisted off of cheap Chinese noodles for years, and saw at least one of his pre-Uber companies go belly-up via Chapter 11 bankruptcy, managed to turn Uber, which started as a simple app, into a corporate juggernaut worth in excess of $60 billion today is, in my opinion, nothing short of amazing, and for that, the man deserves credit, regardless of how much we may agree or disagree with how he treats his employees.
In my opinion, no one—including Kalanick—should ever feel the need to apologize to pointing out that some (or, again, as I would say, most) people do not take responsibility for themselves, because it is true, and the truth, while it can and does hurt sometimes, can and will set us free, assuming that we recognize it as the truth when we hear it and take steps to incorporate it into our lives, as Kalanick has.
In a way, I feel that what Kalanick said to Mr. Kamel needed to be said, as harsh as it may have come across to the millions of people who, like Mr. Kamel, find it so much easier to blame people like Mr. Kalanick for seemingly everything that is “wrong” with their lives, and if I were in Kalanick’s shoes, I would never have thought for one second about apologizing for telling the truth and would have instead doubled down on it, using the situation as an opportunity to point out people like Mr. Kamel that if it wasn’t for people like Travis Kalanick—self-respecting and personally responsible go-getters who consciously create their own reality, rather than allow others to create it for them—companies like Uber wouldn’t exist and people like Mr. Kamel wouldn’t even have a job or some billionaire CEO to blame for his financial failure and the poor decisions he’s made for not only himself but his entire family.
TAKEAWAY # 2: KALANICK IS CORRECT IN THAT HE NEEDS HELP IN THE LEADERSHIP AREA
When Kalanick says that he needs “leadership help” and to “fundamentally change as a leader and grow up”, he’s right, and his admittance of this truth ties into an even greater truth which not too much people seem to be aware of, which is that someone is not necessarily a leader simply because they wear a name tag that says they’re a “team lead”, “supervisor”, or “manager” or because they have a private office with their name etched into its window with the word “President”, “Vice President”, or “CEO” beside or below it.
Someone does not automatically become a leader simply by virtue of them founding or running a company, as Kalanick does, or even by virtue of being voted into the coveted CEO role at a company by a Board of Directors. Someone only becomes a leader by leading, which means guiding, inspiring, and motivating others to greatness and, at this point, it’s very questionable as to whether Kalanick is capable of doing this.
A true leader, while having no qualms about pursuing a profit, so long as said pursuit is for the “greater good” and not simply its own sake, would never pursue the same at the expense (or to the detriment) of his or his employees. A true leader is both kind and patient—two things that Kalanick is apparently not—as well as confident. A true leader has, as Kalanick does, an iron fist for one hand and is necessarily prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of his or her company, but at the same time has what Kalanick appears to lack, which is a helping hand for their other hand and a sincere desire to share the company’s success with everyone who rightfully deserves the credit for it. And more than anything, a true leader has as his or her primary goal not the enrichment of his- or herself alone, as Kalanick seemingly does, but the uplifting and empowerment of his or her subordinates, with the hope that they, too, may someday grow into a leader capable of inspiring and motivating others en masse. Accordingly, Kalanick, in my humble opinion, is not cut out to be a leader, and would probably benefit immensely from taking leave of the public eye, spending some time alone to reflect on his successes and his failures, and doing some soul-searching to determine whether he truly wants to be a leader or whether he’d prefer to simply take his money and run.
TAKEAWAY # 3: MR. KAMEL AND MR. KAMEL ALONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS FINANCIAL SITUATION AND THE DECISIONS HE HAS MADE WITH REGARDS TO HIS CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT WITH UBER
In lieu of my constructive criticism of Kalanick, I cannot finish this post without calling into question the personal philosophy of Mr. Kamel himself who, despite how “in the wrong” Kalanick was in his treatment of him, is himself “in the wrong” as pertains to his attitude towards Kalanick and the role he mistakenly believes Kalanick has played in his lack of good fortune.
Mr. Kamel and Mr. Kamel alone is responsible for the decisions he has made in his life, including his decision to not only work for Uber to begin with but to continue to work for Uber, even after he found that he was no longer able to support himself or his family as a result of that decision. By accusing Kalanick of being personally responsible for his failure to do what was and is best for him and his family, Mr. Kamel has run afoul of rule numero uno when it comes to attaining and maintaining success, which is always, in every situation and under all circumstances, take full responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, words, and actions.
As several YouTube commentators have been apt to point out, no one put a gun to Mr. Kamel’s head to force him to work for Uber or to stay employed by them even after their policy changes affected him so negatively, and even if they did, I might add, Mr. Kamel could have opted to take the bullet instead of doing what he ultimately chose to do, which was continue to enrich his apparently heartless boss at the expense of his own “blood, sweat, and ramen”. Ironically—and at least as far as I can tell—there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between the taking of a bullet and what Mr. Kamel actually chose by making the disempowering decisions he’s made and so, in my opinion, if Mr. Kamel really cares as much about his finances and his family as he says he does, he would bite the proverbial bullet himself sooner rather than later by quitting Uber and find something not only more constructive but also more lucrative to do with his time than blaming others for the “problems”.
While I am not defending Kalanick’s behavior in Mr. Kamel’s dashcam video, which I consider to have been quite unbefitting of any CEO, let alone one that desires to be legitimately called a leader, I am also not going to defend Mr. Kamel’s, because I believe that both were and are in the wrong, in many ways, with respect to their personal philosophies and attitudes, which I know for a fact can lead to nothing but failure. That being said, I am not without sympathy for people like Mr. Kamel who I believe, despite their ignorance with regards to the way this world really works, truly want what is best for their families, nor am I without sympathy for people like Kalanick who, in many ways, have been thrust, almost against their will, into leadership positions that they have been wholly unprepared for.
Ultimately, I want what’s best for everyone involved in every situation, and I honestly believe that in the case of both Kalanick and Mr. Kamel, the attainment of this will require a change of employment. Here’s hoping that these two men both tender their resignations sooner rather than later and take their lives in healthier, happier directions, thereby saving themselves much in terms of both headaches and heartaches and paving the way for greater success in all areas of their lives.
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