How Uber’s New CEO Meets the Mark, Braces for Tough Challenges Ahead

The contentious search for Uber’s new CEO has been narrowed down to Expedia’s man-at-the-helm Dara Khosrowshahi. On Twitter, tech industry practitioners and media representatives lost no time posting the announcement, eliciting various sentiments.

Mike Isaac, a technology reporter covering leading social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and Uber itself, generated a flurry of comments, including a remark from a discerning online visitor that Khosrowshahi sits on the board of the New York Times. Apart from that, the Iranian electrical engineering degree holder who eventually acquired a majority stake in Expedia also has shares in the freight startup firm Convoy.

Among the other reactions on Twitter sphere on the emergence of Dara Khosrowshahi as the eventual choice as Uber’s next CEO is that Khosrowshahi comes across as a good pick given his track record in bringing about “sustainable growth & good company culture sustainable growth & good company culture.”

In the light of recent controversies that have gripped Uber under Uber founder Travis Kalanick, notably allegations of racism and sexual harassment, those elements are crucial to get the ride-hailing service organization back on track.

Kalanick has been subjected to intense public scrutiny the past several months. The embattled former CEO of Uber had a close association with US President Donald Trump, though he did consider discussing with the Chief Executive a bid to reverse the latter’s highly-protested travel ban.

Massive void to fill and need for improvements

Should Dara Khosrowshahi accept the offer, the business leader who steered Expedia to grow into a $23 billion global giant has a huge task ahead of him. As tech reporters like Isaac noted, bringing stability back to Uber and enabling the company to regain strong footing after being battered by scandals and driver unrest across the world will be resting on Khosrowshahi’s shoulders.

There is more to Dara Khosrowshahi than what his career highlights show. His origins and travails as an immigrant uncover how his experiences have shaped the strong person he is now.  As a business leader, he has shown formidable clout as well. He has harnessed the power of a platform by taking the needs of end-users to heart and shown that he can deal with a vast range of external forces that may affect business.

Change in leadership signifies fresh start

Khosrowshahi, as business insiders noted, surfaced as a surprise option for the role of Uber’s next CEO. In the aftermath of Kalanick stepping down from the post amidst pressures emanating from various fronts, particularly from  Uber investors/shareholders, there was a huge void that had to be filled.

General Electric Chair Jeffrey Immelt, among the top contenders for the top Uber post, has tweeted his decision “not to pursue a leadership position at Uber” owing to his enormous respect for the company and its founders.

Political activist and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman likewise said she was not filling the shoes of Kalanick. The former eBay head stated that she had brought up with the Uber Board the revamp of the transport network company’s corporate governance structure and a litigation issue.

When it all boiled down to the Expedia CEO as the choice for Uber’s next CEO, Khosrowshahi inspires much confidence. His go-getting character may be rooted in his past, having emigrated to the US as a child with his family during the post-Iranian Revolution era of the late 1970s.

Fast forward to the present age — the Expedia head has been noted as among the business movers & shakers critical of Trump’s policy pronouncements. Among his social media posts is one stating — in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville protest rally that snuffed out Heather Heyer’s life and injured several individuals — how the US President has not risen to the expectation of his office.

A progressive stance

Apart from his vocal opposition to some of Trump’s controversial initiatives, Dara Khosrowshahi’s progressive stance augurs well for the organizational setup that needs to be rebuilt. It can be noted that the Expedia chief has had a very respectable and impressive run during his long tenure at the company that revolutionized travel by harnessing the power of technology.

Employee morale at Uber also stands to get a boost given the fact that he is not afraid to speak his mind, even against the powers-that-be. Not afraid to speak his mind. Khosrowshahi’s sterling reputation as a good leader, as attested to by a high approval rating, may also convey positive changes in store for both drivers and key people at Uber.

The other task foisted on Khosrowshahi is not only to bring back normalcy in Uber’s operations, but also to improve a tarnished image. Both internal and external publics may be expecting him to prove that a thriving or extraordinary business need not come with “ a poisonous culture.”  Moreover, a flexible leader who can handle fast growth and an ever-growing number of global customers is sorely needed at Uber.

It also helps that a leader knows not only to be flexible and to collaborate, but also to acknowledge his shortcomings, then take the steps to rectify them and move forward.  At one point in his career, Khosrowshahi recalled thinking that he may not be cut out for the big task of running an organization. Yet he snapped out of it, rendered his best efforts, and proved he can be a highly effective leader. He eventually gained top ranking as the highest-paid chief executive of a US public company.

As to whether he will espouse equality and resolve myriad issues like customer dissatisfaction and driver unrest, there are indications that he may well do so — in time. One thing looks certain – Dara Khosrowshahi (should he officially accept the post as Uber’s next top brass) will not balk at the tough challenges ahead of him.

His amiable ways and calm approach to corporate setbacks may win him huge support not only from the Uber employee force but from shareholders/investors. Khosrowshahi has exhibited how he can take the reins in charting a company’s phenomenal growth, and he may do so again in the next chapter of his career.

Image Credit: PicJumbo / San Francisco

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