To say the start of 2017 has been tumultuous for Uber would be an understatement.
The company’s leadership and culture have been in the spotlight. First were sexual harassment allegations, brought forth by a former engineer. Then CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on dashcam chastising a driver—a video that went viral. That’s not to mention another lawsuit by Google.
Uber tough times, to be sure.
The result: Kalanick admitted he needs leadership help. “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” he said. Help for Kalanick will come in the form of a new COO.
Despite the tremendous popularity of Uber until this time (in fact, I’m a rider), Kalanick has been known for his aggressive leadership style. Clearly, a change is needed to transform the company culture, from the top down. The president resigned in March, as well.
When there are challenges and churn at the leadership level, it can create an impact organization-wide. Is the sales force able to effectively build relationships in times of tumult? Do employees update their resumes? Do customers make different buying decisions? Toxic leadership can travel quickly, no matter how large or small the organization.
It’s never easy to solve a leadership crisis, and especially when it’s in the spotlight. Every organization I get the opportunity to work with has its share of leadership strengths and successes, opportunities and challenges.
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Below are a few strategies to make leader development a priority across all levels, including the C-Suite. When building any leadership development program, follow these suggestions:
- Tie to business results. What are your business challenges? How can leadership development address them? This is about gaining clarity around what you’re solving for at each level of leadership, and how it will make the organization better able to reach its goals.
- Secure true senior-level support. Programs with support of executive sponsors enjoy the greatest success. True senior-level support means many things. Is it backed financially, beyond Year 1? Are senior leaders willing to participate, willing to become a visible part of leader development programs on an ongoing basis?
- Uncover leadership identity, at personal and organizational levels. What type of leaders do you want to develop? Strategic leaders? Transformational leaders? Servant leaders? Find the right fit for your organization. To help you uncover your leadership identity, download Leadership Lessons: 5 Strategies for Building a Leadership Identity with Impact.
- Take culture into account. Leadership and culture are tied together, they influence and affect one another in ways big and small. What are your company vision, values, norms, language, and beliefs? Is your culture where you want it to be, and do your current leaders reflect it? By understanding the good, the bad, and the ugly within your culture, you can create a leadership program that enhances the positives and addresses issues.
- Build the pipeline. In a 2016 Deloitte study of 7,000 organizations, 89 percent of executives rated “strengthening the leadership pipeline” an urgent issue. Be sure to build leaders at every level of your business. Many programs tend to focus on executive leadership and emerging leaders, but there is a growing body of research that points to the missing middle, and the need to develop our first-level or front-line leaders.
Uber is not the first company to experience a leadership crisis, and likely won’t be the last. By being proactive and creating a results-oriented, sustainable leadership development program, your company can help avoid joining those unenviable ranks.