Why the boss of Uber may have uttered the leadership line of the year

Blimey. Uber’s boss, Travis Kalanick, has a lot of problems right now and he recently made matters a lot worse when he was caught on video (click here to watch) giving one of his drivers a real ear-bashing. However, in his apology, he may have uttered one of the leadership lines of the year.

He said “I need leadership help and I intend to get it”, a sentiment I’d like to hear said a lot more often.

I say this because the world needs many more people in senior leadership positions committing themselves to developing themselves as leaders. For the last twenty years I’ve coached over 50 CEO’s and hundreds of other senior leaders and one number from DDI research that helps me get out of bed each morning is that only 38% of people in organisations worldwide say that the leadership of their organisation is ‘very good’ or better.

This is a terrible number! This topic of leadership has been around for thousands of years but man has only developed to the point that only slightly more than one third of organisations are being very well led. But there have been thousands of books and conferences on leadership and billions spent on its development. So what’s going on?

A big part of the answer is that I see many senior leaders having applied themselves wholeheartedly to learning their trade as a marketeer, accountant, scientist or whatever it may be but then spending a lot less time learning about leading even though it might be through their leadership that they make the biggest difference to their own and others’ success. Think about this for yourself for a moment. How many years have you spent learning your technical expertise and how much time have you spent learning about leading? Most people I’ve explored this with say they’ve spent a lot less time consciously growing as a leader.

So here’s what I’d like to see: a world in which everyone in a leadership position – and for me that’s everyone – has thoughtful answers to three questions. They are:

  • What aspects of your leadership are you actively developing?
  • What kind of help are you getting to support you?
  • Who do you have around you giving you feedback on the progress you’re making?

Your organisation has an improved chance of succeeding in these challenging times if the people in it have solid answers to these questions. So at the very least get clear on your answers. And if you want to help make an even bigger difference send the questions to your senior leaders and especially your CEO. Tell them that you want them to be the best leaders they can be and ask them for their answers. This way, you can help more leaders on the planet say in a strong and confident way, “I need leadership help and I intend to get it”.

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