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The Leadership Lesson That Guarantees Success:

The Lesson That Uber's Travis Kalanick Failed

by Phyllis Reagin, Executive Coach & Organizational Effectiveness Expert, CSRH Consulting, LLC

Travis Kalanick, now former CEO of Uber, is a leader with an interesting vision, one that disrupted a market that had held stagnant for years. He is confident, unapologetic about his drive, and has an intense passion for what he believes in. The perfect formula for a successful leader. It is his undoing.

Travis missed the one key leadership lesson that unravels the best of intentions. He did not hold his employees up to the same level of importance as his leadership vision. What happens to a leader who is tone deaf to his organization and can only hear his own unique voice? The organization buckles first under the strain of misdirection, poor guidance, and the demotivation of not being heard. Then it develops its own energy that leads to employee exits, lawsuits being served, and leaders being forcefully guided out.

What is the lesson for leaders from Travis' disregard for what was happening in his organization? The lesson clearly is that a leader's vision may be the mastermind to something great but it cannot hold more value than the people hired to carry it out. This means having in place the right administration, processes, and protocols to properly manage employees. It also means that the leader must demonstrate everyday that individuals matter. Ignoring or avoiding mistakes, conflict, wrongdoings, or mismanagement can be detrimental to your leadership livelihood and create an organizational climate of dissatisfaction.

Your team wants to know that their rights and well-being is as important as your vision. Simply put, people matter. Travis' errors were many and significant. Of course, there are many lessons to learn from his prominent mistakes. For the sake of your own leadership success, focus on placing your employees above your vision. Understand that they are at the heart of it all. Miss this important awareness and you will fail as a leader. Ground yourself in this important concept and you will have a team that follows you, is inspired by your vision, and supports your leadership.

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