Uber's new CEO and the mind, body and soul...of a company

Uber's board recently announced the appointment of their new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Dara was most recently CEO of Expedia where he helped grow the company to the 22B they're worth today (as compared to the ~50B Uber is worth). Impressive for sure and if Uber's challenge happened to be one related to their financial and/or market opportunity, he could very well be an impressive new hire.

But if we've paid any attention to Uber's recent challenges and the reason for the new CEO in the first place, we all know their challenge is a very different one. Fraught with charges of sexual harassment, board infighting and litigation of all sorts, there's something fundamentally off-center and unbalanced at Uber.  Unless addressed directly, this new CEO will have very little impact on the future of this promising yet very troubled company.

We've all heard of the mind, body and soul concept. This trifecta of balance is often associated with yoga, tai-chi or other forms of meditative state. It's an easy concept to theorize, but a tough one to put into practical application. It is even tougher to apply to oneself outside of these meditative experiences, let alone to the operating of an entire business organization.

But what the heck. Let's give it a try!

As I've learned from my Noble Warrior training with TC Cummings and in my own self-study, in order for a person, or in this case an organization, to achieve an optimal state of performance (aka dynamic equilibrium), it needs to embody a balanced proportion of mind/body/soul attributes. Any imbalance in these three areas (too much or too little) can and will result in directly related problems.

As individuals, we are each governed by our own mind/body/soul equilibrium so we can all relate to the above in some form of practical terms. If you are all soul (aka heart) you may find life to be on the passionate and exciting side but with a lot of ups, downs and volatility. If you are all mind you may be the Wikipedia or voice of reason in your friend circle, but you may lack in areas of spontaneity, depth of relationships and other matters of the heart. If you are all body you may look good in front of a mirror or have a treasure chest of material items, but may be light in the areas of depth or substance. Clearly not a zero-sum or all-or-none game. Each of us carry a perpetually moving state of the above attributes and are in constant search of that ever so elusive mind/body/soul dynamic equilibrium.

The same can be applied to an organization:

  • Attributes associated with the mind can include logic, strategy, knowledge, information, data, etc.,
  • Attributes associated with the body can include anything physical like team, money, offices, tools, systems, technology, etc.
  • Attributes associated with the soul can include matters of the heart, values, principles, care, compassion, love, charity, etc.

So, when I look at an organization like Uber, it's easy to see how much focus they place on their impressive results: revenue, market share, technology, size of team, etc. But then I can also see the hurt employees, the low regard for public policy, damaged relationships, etc. I can therefore only speculate that Uber's imbalance stems from an overweighting in mind and body attributes and an underweighting in the areas of the heart. Not trying to judge, simply making an observation.

Now let's get back to Dara and his Day 1 opportunity. Is he the right CEO? The wrong CEO? Did the board make the correct decision? It’s Impossible to tell at this exact moment as nobody knows his personal mindset and how he'll choose to address this challenge/opportunity. But address them he will and the answers to these questions will become clear to us soon enough. Will he prioritize matters of the heart, perhaps even at the expense of mind and body initiatives? Or will he try to maintain focus on what's gotten Uber to their market dominant position, while paying only superficial attention to their heart related deficiencies?  Only the future will tell.

Boris Epstein