An Uber Apology, Leaders Take Note

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, got more than he bargained for when he revealed his identity to his Uber driver. The driver took issue with the company’s drop in pay, letting the CEO know that his family faced bankruptcy because of the company’s decision. The exchange didn’t end well.

My goal isn’t to draw attention to Kalanick’s initial negative response to the driver, but to the apology the CEO published yesterday on the company’s public blog:

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.

It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.

I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.


The reason I wanted to write something on this here is because I think this is a great model for how leaders should apologize. Kalanick admitted his wrong and accepted it, not as a result of some external circumstance, but as a limitation of his own leadership. For a leader to say that he needs help at leadership and needs to grow up is really honest and powerful. I think that’s the kind of transparency most are looking for in a leader. Leaders, take note of this Uber example.