I'll never forget the first time I took an Uber. It was when Uber was undergoing a major lawsuit by several cities. When you think about it, the company has been a disruptive force since it's launch. And since, it's been marred with litigation on so many fronts.
One might ask how does a company like this survive? Most don't.
A culture of consistent conflict externally says a lot about what's going on inside the four walls. And it's no surprise. Uber's recently outed co-founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick is waging war with Benchmark, an early investor. Benchmar sued Kalanick on Aug. 10 alleging he duped the firm into allowing him to fill three board seats and sought to pack the panel with allies willing to keep him as a director after he resigned as chief executive officer in June.
Meanwhile an international search has been underway to fill the top job. The first obvious place to look was the female c-suite. Some of America's revered female leaders -- Meg Whitman and Sheryl Sandberg among others turned down the opportunity. Do you blame them? Bro-culture in tech is a real issue, and things at Uber are out of control. They have been from the very start!
Former GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is among the finalists under consideration to take the top spot at Uber, but at the moment there's no clear consensus on why he's the top candidate for the job. Over the weekend news sources said there are concerns Jeff doesn't have the tech domain knowledge to do the job.
I have to ask what about the 61-year old revered c-suite has the board so concerned?
Leaders don't need subject matter expertise. They need to bring good leadership, control, discipline, and a myriad of things that Uber lacks.
Several years ago I remembered reading something in the Harvard Business Review on trends in the c-suite needed in the relationship economy. The relationship economy is the one we live in where companies see customers as more than just consumers. We live in an ABUNDANCE of choices today. In this world, whom you trust and who trusts you are primary assets. You will choose services that people you trust recommend.
And let's face it, Uber has lost a lot of trust .... from its employees, investors, customers, and to the public at large. In a word: disaster.
I've met Jeff a few times over the past several years. And Jeff's the steady hand executive that knows controversy. Not too long ago I attended the GE Leading and Learning conference, and Jeff spoke about his experience managing through the Fukushima crisis in 2011... a battle he had to fight all sides with ... employees, the press, customers, and the like. As a CEO, he's navigated through some pretty decent sized crises: 9/11, GE Capital and the meltdown of the sub-prime market, and the move from an industrial company to a digital one, to name a few.
And you know my mantra is WHY waste a good one?
Uber is an example of a company that needs leadership. You don't need to be a nerd to run Uber. It needs steady hands and experience.
Uber's 68.5B paper valuation needs more than Silicon Valley unicorns.
It needs a leader. I cannot think of a better choice than Immelt.
PS: I would say the same above about a lot of energy companies. Companies don't need more knowledge. They need more leadership. These times call for a different playbook.