Uber Leadership: a brief overview

By John Dudovskiy
July 17, 2021

Uber leadership style was authoritative with co-founder and first CEO Travis Kalanick attempting to micromanage the company. The global transportation technology company had to face a leadership crisis due to incompetency of Travis Kalanick. Mr. Kalanick’s leadership style was criticized as ‘one-man-show’[1]. Moreover, it has been noted that “the sexual harassment claims, the bullying, the intellectual property lawsuit – are attributable to former leader Travis Kalanick’s brash take-no-prisoners, admit-no-errors leadership style.”[2]

Scandals at the global taxi technology company escalated to an extent where Kalanick was pressured by investors to step down as Uber CEO in June 2017. The search for new CEO by the Board of Directors took two months and experienced leaders such as former CEO of HP Meg Whitman and former CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelts were shortlisted as potential heads of new Uber leadership. Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was chosen as a person to lead Uber effective from August 30, 2017.

Uber leadership

Dara Khosrowshahi was CEO of Expedia for 12 years and has proved himself as an effective business leader. Expedia’s stock has climbed more than 500% since the 2005 spinoff under the leadership of Khosrowshahi.[3] New Uber leadership is faced with a set of complex challenges that include improving organizational culture, building gender-balanced senior management team and improving relationships with drivers.[4]

Changes made by Mr. Khosrowshahi so far include securing USD 7,7 billion investment from Softbank[5], emphasizing diversity and inclusion, acknowledging and apologizing for past misdeeds by the company.[6]

At the same time, certain aspects of Khosrowshahi’s leadership of Uber have been subjected to criticism. First of all, Uber initial public offering (IPO) which took place on May 2019 has been rather unsuccessful. Shortly after the IPO, shares of the ride-hailing giant dropped by 11%, which was the biggest IPO first-day dollar loss in US history.[7] Moreover, certain analysts note that by allowing founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick to leave the company, Khosrowshahi lost heart and soul of the company.[8]

Following failed IPO, Dara Khosrowshahi initiated a massive leadership shake-up at Uber, tightening his own grip on operational management and decision making. As a result the roles of chief operating officer (COO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) were reorganized.

Uber Technologies Inc. Report contains the above analysis of Uber leadership. The report illustrates the application of the major analytical strategic frameworks in business studies such as SWOT, PESTEL, Porter’s Five Forces, Value Chain analysis, Ansoff Matrix and McKinsey 7S Model on Uber. Moreover, the report contains analyses of Uber business strategy, organizational structure and organizational culture. The report also comprises discussions of Uber marketing strategy, ecosystem and addresses issues of corporate social responsibility.

[1] Hook, L. (2017) “Uber struggles to fix leadership amid Kalanick’s one-man show” Financial Times, Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/aabe4fe4-4bab-11e7-a3f4-c742b9791d43

[2] Stillman, J. (2017) “In Just 8 Words, Uber’s New CEO Gave a Master Class in Leadership” Inc. Available at: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/in-just-8-words-ubers-new-ceo-gave-a-masterclass-i.html

[3] Griswold, A. (2017) “Two years ago, Uber’s CEO pick was the highest-paid chief of a US public company” Quartz, Available at: https://qz.com/1063313/new-uber-ceo-expedias-dara-khosrowshahi-was-the-highest-paid-ceo-in-the-sp-500-in-2015/

[4] Pontefract, D. (2017) “Five Key Leadership Actions For Uber’s New CEO” Forbes, Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2017/08/29/five-key-leadership-actions-for-ubers-new-ceo/#1c8c03bc125c

[5] Sherman, L. (2018) “Is Softbank Uber’s Savior?” Forbes, Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lensherman/2018/01/01/is-softbank-ubers-savior/#2e784bffd04a

[6] Mann, S. (2018) “8 Ways Uber’s New CEO Is Changing Its Image” Inc. Available at: https://www.inc.com/sonya-mann/dara-khosrowshahi-first-month.html

[7] Ungarino, R. (2019) “Uber tanked 11% after logging the biggest first-day dollar loss in US IPO history (UBER)” Business Insider, Available at: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/uber-technologies-inc-stock-falls-after-brutal-ipo-2019-5-1028195064

[8] Bariso, J. (2020) “Uber’s CEO Made a Huge Mistake, and It Just May Signal the End of Uber” Inc. Available at: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/ubers-ceo-just-made-a-huge-mistake-it-just-may-signal-end-of-uber.html

Category: Leadership