Ed Mayo's Blog

The real challenge at Uber is not just leadership, but ownership

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So, after a bizarre process of leaks since Sunday, Uber has confirmed Dara Khosrowshahi as the new chief executive.

New leadership at Uber gives the company the opportunity to change its ‘toxic culture’, but it is the underlying governance and ownership that needs reform. 

In the case of Barclays, Antony Jenkins, was hired as CEO to clean up the culture after record fines for misbehaviour. Within a short period, the Board’s priorities changed, he was moved on and new fines emerged for new misbehaviours. The lesson, as I have noted before, is that corporate executives change faster than corporate values.

In a company where ultimate control lies with the investors, when disputes arise or crisis comes, there is a need for owners to signal what values matter in how the business is run. In a digital platform such as Uber, the drivers are not owners, as they might be in a co-operative, but they also are key to the values of the business. Their participation shapes customer experience over time and the sustainability of the commercial offer.

The current governance structure of Uber, in line with other Silicon Valley start-ups, is flawed, not just because many investors are not true owners in terms of rights of control, but also because it gives no voice to the drivers that are ‘partners’ in name only.

The old saying is that business does not have a culture. It is a culture. A new CEO for Uber is a start, but the more radical decisions lie ahead. 

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