My friend and I have been having a conversation lately around business philosophies. What gets work done? What kind of business personality drives results?
Empirically, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Bezos, and most recently, Uber's Travis Kalanick would prove that a balls-to-the-wall, sharp-elbowed salesmanship style is what brings successful entrepreneurs out from the crowd. Nearly all the business and start-up self-help literature I've read places value on bringing an aggressive approach to a company. Can't say I've seen the ill-fated Jobs movie, but nearly everyone knows about Steve Job's almost sociopathic disregard for how his actions had an impact on other people.
This personality goes against the values most kids are taught growing up. Share your toys. Be fair. And yet, now that Uber is gaining immense popularity at a current valuation of $3.4 billion, plenty of coverage is being spun out around Travis Kalanick's bull-headed work style:
"There is absolutely no way this business would have gotten where it is without Travis and his arrogance,"
says an acquaintance of Kalanick's. "Not without him being like, 'I'm going to take over the world.' He has the Steve Jobs mentality that 'It's my way or the highway.'"
Here are a few more examples of Kalanick's stubborn, nearly tyrannical methods:
1) On convincing New York Taxi and Limousine Deputy Commissioner Ashwini Chhabra to let Uber taxis give rides in New York and compete with yellow cabs:
That said, the deputy commissioner admits the hard-knuckled tactics can be effective. "That approach actually works if you want to come in and you're challenging an orthodoxy," he says, noting he personally has no hard feelings toward Kalanick or criticisms of his business style. "He's a good and tough negotiator, and when you're negotiating, sometimes there is some posturing on everyone's part, whether it's as the regulator or disruptor."
2) On responding to public criticism from frustrated Uber customers:
Later, when Uber was criticized for charging fares eight times higher than usual during a snowstorm, Kalanick posted an email from a concerned user to his Facebook page.
"Get some popcorn and scroll down," he wrote.
3) At Failcon, an annual conference for startup founders to study their own and other's failures:
"VCs ain't shit but hoes and tricks."
In short, and as summarized in Business Insider's feature, "Kalanick's form of hustling also means doing things most people wouldn't: picking fights, bending laws, challenging governments, and throwing tantrums."
And so it seems that out-of-ordinary success necessitates out-of-ordinary drive and duplicitous personality. Plenty of successful CEOs exude this philosophy.
What my friend and I are focusing on, instead of blindly adopting a Kalanick-like business philosophy, is finding counterexamples. Is there a way to become a selfless leader and thrive with equal success as Kalanick?
Right now I'm looking into the following books and resources to build up a library of examples of the patient, kind, giving, and human leader:
If you have any, please share!