There has been a recent firestorm over comments that Travis Kalanick made to an Uber driver on Superbowl Sunday.
What did he say that got so many people to respond?
Look, Kalanick is a pugnacious, daring disrupter. Isn't the nature of disrupters to be eager or quick to argue or fight? Isn't the model of billionaire disrupters to say whatever they want to say, in a truculent even warlike manner?
Apparently, that's what Uber's founder thinks, or thought until Bloomberg decided to air the video the driver of the black car (i.e., prestigious vehicle in Uber terms) decided to make public.
The video starts out just like another day in paradise.
A big cheese, a high-level money dude makes small talk with two giggly gals on either side. They hang on every word. At one point, he says with great pride, "I make sure every year is a hard year. If it's easy I'm not pushing hard enough."
Impressed? Here is a bona-fide super achiever telling his truth. https://www.ceoptions.com/pattern-aware-quiz
However, I just wonder what the cost will be in years to come? Physically and emotionally. That's a story for another day.
Then, just about to end the ride, another round of talking ensues. this time with the Uber driver. Now, to be fair, the driver, Fawzi Kamel started the after-goodbye-talk.
The question is: why did Kalanick need to respond?
And even more to the point, why did he have to give a sucker punch to Kamel right there in the car by saying "Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own s**t. They blame everything in their own life on somebody else. Good luck."
Hey, he doesn't't even know this man. He's making assumptions.
The driver, pissed as expected, sends the video to Bloomberg and the rest, as they say, is history.
Next comes the apology. It's certainly well-crafted and meant to appease, well, just about everyone. Kalanick says he's ashamed. He says he needs to grow up. And so on.
It reminds me of my kids when they were teens and got caught staying out too late, etc., etc. Although I always knew it was said more to get me off their backs than anything else.
Other than being ashamed and saying he should get a leadership coach what can we all learn from what happened.
Travis are you listening???
Leadership is about timing. It's about picking the right time and the right place to say something. It's about learning to "zip it" rather than let your ego take charge.
Next, and this is crucial: It's about meeting people where they are, not where you want them to be. Let me say this again and maybe you can pin this on your bathroom mirror.
Leadership is about meeting people where they are not where you want them to be.
Here is what I would have suggested to Travis as he got out of the black car. This is not the time or place for an off-the-cuff meeting. Simply not right timing. Tell Fawzi you appreciate his concerns and give him a card or get his card and suggest a meeting the following week for coffee.
Then get out of the car. Nod, smile, wave, whatever, and move on.
And then make sure you keep that meeting. Ask the driver about his life, his concerns, his dreams. And ask for his help. And then ask what you can do for him.
By this time, Travis, you will hopefully have created an ally out of your employee. And if not, you will have learned about another human being who has crossed your path and has a message for you.
Here's the core learning for all of us: It's all about relationships and how we interact with each other.
Real leadership means taking the words of emotional intelligence and making them come alive in all your relations.