Last week, just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took his final bow, a new batch of internal company emails leaked.
One message, from a female Hispanic Uber engineer concerned about company culture, cuts to the core of this scandal.
"I've kept telling myself it's going to get better," she wrote. "It's been now 11 months at the company and I still question it daily Do I belong in tech? Do I belong at a company like Uber?"
Now that Kalanick has finally been ousted, it's tempting to say the answer is an emphatic yes. But let's not pretend that Kalanick's exit means his approach is suddenly unwelcome in the industry. The roots of his aggressive, give-no-care executive style is heralded as the secret ingredient to Uber's wild success and $68 billion valuation.
For the mobility industry, obsession with saving the world through decreased pollution, congestion and traffic-related deaths is as noble as it is cliche. But somehow, the industry has come to accept the cult of the abrasive, uncompromising founder as an essential part of creating this future. It might be tempting to say that those traits that made Kalanick successful became his fatal flaw. But with the financial stakes so high, it will be tempting for the industry to continue investing in brash, rule-breaking executives.
Leaders in mobility should stop idolizing CEOs who employ strategies that run afoul of ethics and basic manners. For too long, Kalanick's failures were papered over by a culture that placed dollar figures over human decency. For those enchanted by the vision of accessible, affordable mobility-for-all, now is the time to look inward at how that drive for the common good plays out in everyday dealings.
Leaders such as Kalanick will continue to melt down as their egos bring them flying closer to the sun. In the long run, it is smart to remember that good people make good companies.
-- Shiraz Ahmed