Kalanick’s Leadership Approach Report
Part 4—Uber: Leading: Third Key Component of Uber’s SuccessThis is the fourth part of a five-part cumulative case, and focuses on the leading component of success for Uber. This part utilizes chapters 11 through 15 of the textbook. This real-world application of management knowledge and skills is designed to help you develop critical thinking ability and realize the practical power of sound managerial skills for solving problems in your job and career.
Read the cumulative case and respond to the questions that follow.
After planning and organizing, leadership is the next key function of management. Leading is defined as motivating, directing, and otherwise influencing people to work hard to achieve the organization’s goals.
“Leadership may sometimes seem like a mysterious process,” writes Inc.contributor Erik Sherman, “but it’s not. Plenty is known and understood about how it works. . . . But improvement isn’t something you slather on like a coat of paint. It requires change.” This is the challenge facing Uber.
The Individual Differences Underlying Travis Kalanick’s Behavior
Born in 1976 in Los Angeles and raised in Northridge in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, Kalanick is the son of a civil engineer of Slovak descent and a mother who worked in retail advertising and was of Jewish background and German, Irish, and Russian descent. Some of his attributes are as follows:
- Salesmanship and competitiveness. Described as “a natural salesman,” according to Max Chafin in a Fast Companyprofile, he sold knives door-to-door during high school and also ran track and specialized in the long jump.
- Gift for math. A person who has said “I really love numbers,” Kalanick achieved a perfect score on the math portion of the SAT. Later, when trying to devise an Uber model that would help drivers make more money and make passengers happier, he said, “I started to see how math moved the needle. Things clicked in me about how this thing could scale [be broadened].”
- Entrepreneurial bent. In the summer following graduation from high school, he started an SAT training company with a classmate’s father. He enrolled at UCLA to study computer programming, but dropped out as a senior in 1998 to help found Scour Inc., a multimedia search engine where, at age 22, he was vice president of strategy, responsible for cultivating investors and media partners.
- Focus and perseverance. A Scour co-founder recalled that “Kalanick already had a penchant for constant pacing, his phone usually pressed to his ear, focused totally on finding anyone who could possibly help the young startup,” according to Brad Stone in The Upstarts.
While at Scour, he came under the wing of super-agent Michael Ovitz, one of the most feared players in Hollywood, who taught him some hardball business tactics, first investing $4 million (in return for 51% ownership) in the startup and then suing Scour as a negotiating tactic when the company went looking for other investors. When Scour began making money offering bootleg copies of popular movies, it was also sued by the major studios for copyright infringement, forcing the young firm into bankruptcy in 2000. The scars of this experience remained with Kalanick for years……………………………………………………………………….
Answer the following question: Is Kalanick more of a task or relationship-oriented leader? Provide examples to support your conclusion.Uber is among the most successful companies in the taxi industry. However, the leadership style employed by the company’s founder, Kalanick, is questionable. Over the years, Uber has been in constant conflicts with its employees and contract drivers, but it has continued to grow including expanding to new cities globally. It is doubtful on how Uber has managed to grow at a fast rate amid a sour relationship with its employees, contract drivers, and other stakeholders. The reports ties Uber’ success to the results-focused leadership applied by Kalanick. Kalanick is a task-oriented leader who is focused on the performance and satisfaction of customers at the expense of a balanced relationship with the company workers.
Leading is a fundamental aspect of leadership. It is through leadership where people are motivated, directed and influenced to work to attain the company’s set goals (Kinicki and Williams 358). Kalanick’s leadership rarely motivate or influence company employees. As revealed in the case study, lack of employee motivation is one of the big challenges facing Uber. For example, the company came into light in 2017 not because of registering tremendous profits or investing heavily in philanthropic activities, but because of embracing sexist and hostile workplace. The company’s workplace lacks leader-employee relationship that can be translated into employee motivation. Motivation is one of the key drivers behind the employee performance and productivity as presented by (Kinicki and Williams 421).
Kalanick is focused on getting the results at the expense of the worker’s welfare. As reported by the Curtin, Uber’s former manager, expectations of the company on employees are quite high, but they do not get the help they need to do their work. Even though the company has employed has established teams through its three-pronged leadership model, the teams and groups are only available for middle-level management, but not for the employees of the lower radar. Teamwork helps to get rid of conflicts and increase cooperation (Kinicki and Williams 445). Lack of team and groups among the employees has escalated the conflict between the Uber leadership and workers.