Problems in leadership

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Uber is a multinational company headquartered in the United States (San Francisco, California). The Uber food delivery and mobile transportation app is operated, marketed, and developed by the organization. Users and car drivers must have a mobile website or tablet to access the Uber app program. This company's drivers have the choice of renting vehicles to drive with Uber or driving their own cars (Levin 2017). This organization is unusual in that it considers its drivers as independent employees who set their own schedules and use their own vehicles. The company was heavily criticised because of the post of an employee who claimed she was being harassed and despite the fact that she reported this matter the company did nothing. Susan Fowler who was the victim, in this case, described how several women had tried to access justice by reporting the cases to the human resource department but they were neglected. Susan claimed that a senior member solicited her for sex, she reported the matter but the management ignored it (Levin 2017).

The report claimed that employees experienced other forms of harassment, for instance, Susan was denied access to the company’s sponsored educational program because she resisted the senior. The employee claims that such practices were promoted by the company’s aggressive culture. Susan was later fired.

After the matter went into the public domain, the former USA attorney general Eric Holder, chief of HR Liana Horsey and Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick launched an investigation into the allegation. It was, later on, discovered that there were 47 claims of sexual harassment out of the 215 cases of bias, retaliation, bullying, and sexual harassment (Levin 2017). Susan Fowler's claim turned out to be true. Corporate culture caused the scandals, and the top management seemed to turn a blind eye on the matter. The report described the company's values as having been used to justify poor behaviour. The company’s internal structure only emphasised on meritocracy; it claimed that only the top performers would rise to the leadership positions even if it means stepping on the toes of others.

Organisational Structure

The company mainly relied on the decentralised office structure. The daily business operations are delegated by the top management to the lower and the middle managers, giving the top management an opportunity to focus on the most critical business decisions. The company empowers the branch managers to make certain decisions without intense supervision and orders from the headquarters in San Francisco. The top priority is always to achieve revenue and grow. The management often took advantage of the female employees. Occasionally, some of the managers who were involved in internal scandals were shuffled to other departments and regions, firing was a rare case to occur.

Steps the Company Took to Respond to Crisis

The organisation responded to these allegations by firing twenty of its employees; some of them held management positions. The aggressive company’s corporate culture was set by the CEO Travis Kalanick who took pugnacious business decisions criticising competitors and flouting local laws in the race to grow and expand rapidly. Travis was forced to resign after pressure from the major investors.

Impact of the Problem

The independently contracted drivers who questioned the integrity of the company started boycotting the services. The drivers or employees were driven away from wanting to work for this company causing a decline in the number of the potential talent. Some of the customers who witnessed the allegations tried to boycott the use of Uber app. The company's total revenue has also declined since the allegations came out because some of the customers no longer wanted to be associated with the company. When the case popped up, some of the key investors withdrew their shares from the company, the move saw the company lose some revenue, and it is expected that the company will continue losing sales in future. Some of the activists advocated that people boycott the company's services and even delete their app. The scandal has given competitors an undue advantage over the company. The company's global market share has been declining – a fact that can be attributed to poor management and inability of the company to attract the top talent employees. The company has brought in professional who aims at reviving the ruined business image. New people have been employed as well.

Leadership Theories

Trait Theory

Trait theory is an approach to people's personality. The theory mainly focuses on the measurement of traits that can be defined by the habitual pattern of emotions, thoughts, and behaviour (Northhouse 2015, 73). According to this theory, people or organisations must act in a manner that represents the sound character (Doorasamy and Baldavaloo 2016, 36). In any organisation, the CEO is expected to come up with a better organisation culture that can be embraced by all members and even add value. Uber’s former CEO failed to create a corporate culture that respects other parties. The management created a situation where people were allowed to rise to the top position even if it meant hurting other employees. The management used this as an advantage to harass the junior employees and even demand sexual favours before they were promoted. The scandal led the company to a crisis because some customers decided to delete the Uber app while driver quit the services for other avenues elsewhere.

Behavioural Theory

The behavioural leadership theory studies the specific pattern of leadership. The leadership behaviour is the best predictor of the leadership influence (Northhouse 2015, 14). The theory stipulates that leaders must act in ways that honour people and their choices. The leaders should not harm other, manipulate, cheat or lie to get their way. Ubers core values went against the leadership behavioural theory because it failed to solve the internal challenges and eliminate factors that were causing a hostile workplace where people harmed, manipulated, and cheated others. Secondly, discrimination is conduct that is unwelcome because it demeans other individuals. In this case, Uber will be considered to have operated unethically. The model suggests looking at this case from an analytical point of view. The culture, in this case, was quite aggressive, thus creating a scenario where people struggled to rise to the top position exceeding their powers. The company seemed to be in a leadership crisis creating a situation where the employees reported cases that were never solved. Immediately, after the investigation was launched, several cases of abusive behaviour were witnessed. Organisations should always aim at maximising benefits for its workers. Maximising happiness tends to increase productivity because employees are individuals who push for organisational success.

Path-Goal Theory

The path-goal theory is based on how organisations motivate followers to accomplish a specific task. The concept is to raise the level of satisfaction, empowerment, and motivation so that they become productive members (Northhouse 2015, 34). The overall Uber organisational structure is built on individualism (a business exists purely to maximise revenue for the owners). However, the second part of individualism rule highlights that all transactions must be within the law (Clement 2006, 16). The sexual harassment case contravenes this principle. The move to fire Susan Fowler for reporting the sexual misconduct was also a violation of the state laws. The anti-discrimination laws protect individuals against harassment in retaliation for testifying, filing discrimination charges or participating in lawsuits, proceedings or investigations. Despite the fact that some of the employees raised concerns that they were being mistreated, the management decided to ignore and even use the threat of punishment as a tactic to silence them. Uber, in this case, violated the ethical principle because they did not try to abide by the law.


The goal path theory is complex and incorporates so many leadership aspects meaning that it can be confusing (Northhouse 2015, 65). It might be a hard task to integrate numerous attributes in one selection of a preferred leader. The theory contains numerous interrelated sets of assumptions; it is, therefore, hard to be used to improve leadership in the Uber Company.

Necessary Organisational Changes

Uber needs to root out bad leaders among the ranks and replace them with focused individuals with the capacity of emphasising on ethical practices. Otherwise, the moral meltdown in the organisation is likely to happen again. Forms of discrimination such as sexual harassment remain to be major problems in most organisations today. It is estimated that 24% of women have experienced the form of sexual violence while 58% experience the different form of other forms of harassment (Lawrence and Weber 2013, 39). The victims suffer in numerous ways through symptoms of post-traumatic stress, mental and physical health, and lower job satisfaction. Those workers who witness forms of sexual violence are more likely to experience the same adverse outcome. Harassment tends to arise in those organisations where leaders have unchecked powers as in the case of Uber. Certain individuals remain obedient to the toxic leaders within an instruction and turn a blind eye on the leader’s destructive behaviour. In the case of Uber, some of the managers colluded and failed to take action against the managers who were discriminating against other employees.

Those managers who are identified as the active perpetrators of the culture of harassment ought to be fired. It is also important to hold leaders accountable for their actions. The company must empower its employees to take appropriate actions whenever they feel intimidated at the workplace. The road to redemption after such a crisis is always difficult after the crisis or scandal, and a company should use all possible positive means to protect them.

Leadership Approaches

If the company wants to be successful once again, it must reform its toxic culture and encourage inclusivity. The company must be more transparent. This is one of the areas where the firm has performed poorly. The company has poorly performed in management and the only way people see what goes on in the company is through unanimous accounts. The company should detail results of the investigation and take more appropriate steps to build an inclusive culture and to be accountable and open to external and internal feedback (Baker 2013, 14). This will demand a seismic shift on how the firm view itself regarding its relationship with stakeholders. The company must employ a diverse workforce capable of propagating positive values.

How Uber Can Change its Organisational Culture

Uber's organisational culture has been damaged, and unless the company takes appropriate steps to restore, it will continue facing similar scandals. The company should provide a more clear support to the human resource department and establish a better protocol that will enable it to track all customers’ and employees’ complaints. The company should also provide mandatory training to the managers, HR staffers, senior executives, and people in the position to interview prospective employees, especially on the topic of encouraging inclusion as well as contesting unconscious bias (Northhouse 2015, 15). The company must also prohibit the intimate or romantic relationship between subordinate/supervisors and engage in any unethical business practices. The company should update its harassment and discrimination policies and include a zero-tolerance policy. Any violators of those rules must be punished no matter which position they hold. Regarding development of talent and recruitment, Uber can implement a blind resume review and increase the level of accountability when it comes to employee motivation (Storey, 2003, 37). The management should eliminate those values that have been used to justify the poor behaviour or being considered redundant. Only those leaders who have such values should be part of the team or the role model to employees within the company.

Uber’s present leadership trouble must be an open up eye to many organisations to steer a culture that supports ethical practices. The management should remain sensitive to the issues that promote unethical behaviour and correct them before they ruin the firm image.


Uber's vision statement is as the following: “Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone” (Levin 2017). The vision statement omits an emphasis on ethics. The company emphasises on service delivery rather than creating a workplace where ethical practices are enhanced. The company should incorporate the ethical standards in the mission statement to act as the guide to employee’s behaviour. An oversight committee should set up senior monitor managers and ensure that they act according to the company’s values and the commitment should promote ethical environment (Yukl 2013, 7). A new system of tracking complaints should also be set up to raise a red flag when complaints have been lodged against a particular employee. The company must pair the newly hired employees with the seasoned ones to help guide career development.


The firm should encourage innovation through the meetings, flexible schedule, culture, and interdisciplinary project teams. Both employees and customers want to feel recognised and trusted. One way to encourage this is through giving employees a chance to work from their respective homes. At time changing the office setup can go a long way in spurring innovations and encouraging teamwork.


Baker, J. P. 2013. Leadership Theories and Approaches. Leadership in Psychiatry, 49-62. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 14, 2017].

Clement, R. W. 2006. Just how unethical is American business? Business Horizons, 49(4), 313-327. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 14, 2017].

Doorasamy, M., & Baldavaloo, K. 2016. Compromising Long-Term Sustainability for Short-Term Profit Maximization: Unethical Business Practice. Foundations of Management, 8(1). [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 14, 2017].

Lawrence, A. T., & Weber, J. 2013. Business and society: Stakeholders, ethics, public policy.

Levin, S. 2017. Uber's scandals, blunders and PR disasters: the full list. [Online] Available at: >[Accessed Nov. 14, 2017].

Northhouse , G. 2015. Leadership theory & practice seventh edition: SAGE Publications.

Storey, J. 2003. Changing theories of leadership and leadership development. Leadership in Organizations. [Online] Available at:[Accessed Nov. 14, 2017].

Yukl, G. A. 2013. Leadership in organizations. Harlow: Pearson Education.

July 24, 2021

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