What a miserable mess!

Naughty dog - Lying dog in the middle of mess in the kitchen.

About role models, leadership examples and companies that think tech trumps law.

In writing a blog this week, I really don’t know where to begin. Should I write about the unholy mess that is Uber? Uber has potentially just hit the rails in the UK after ploughing ahead with its jaw dropping business model that earns its shareholders eye watering piles of money, in part it would seem due to its total avoidance of all responsibilities associated with its most critical asset – its drivers. Or should I talk about the scandal of the missing (hundreds of) millions from the BHS corporate pension fund whilst one of its former owners suns himself on his mega yacht. Or should I focus on the most embarrassing of goings on in the US where politicians are busy setting the most lousy of standards of leadership?

These are all soap operas you really couldn’t make up. Who needs fiction when the world gives us all the mortifying entertainment we need?

Where do I start? Let me work through one by one, that’s probably most logical.

Uber: UK courts have ruled that drivers do indeed have a degree of protection under UK employment laws and as such have the right to paid holidays, rest breaks and sick pay. They have said that whilst not Employees, they do qualify as Workers (Read our Blast here) Wow! That could cost them dear. If I had a calculator nearby I could start making my eyes water by looking at how many drivers there are, how many years they have been working and how much all of that compensation is going to cost. Although I’m sure we have a long drawn out Appeal to come first.

And no doubt the rest of Europe that has long struggled with the impact Uber has had on its traditional hard working taxi firms will be watching and waiting, given that our laws are all pretty similar when it comes to who is classed as a Worker. Let’s hope Uber has some money put by in a disaster fund. And that’s without even considering how they fund such Workers’ rights going forwards.

Of course, the company has always said it’s not an employer but a tech company. I’m not a lawyer but I have seen for years that that argument was likely to hit the rails at some point. If you drive a taxi and you work all day, every day for Uber and you have no income other than through Uber, at some point someone, somewhere is going to decide that Uber needs to be a little bit responsible in terms of your rest breaks, health and money.

I am sure you were taught from birth that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Well the business model of Uber (and no doubt other similarly modeled tech companies too) might just have been too good to be true, and perhaps that particular bubble is about to burst.

Did their directors simply disregard the potential employment rights of those earning them money or was there such intense focus on the tech issues and the excitement of a disruptive business model that this was overlooked? I suspect we will never know.

Next up we have a pensions pot which is short of a fair few hundred million. That’s a lot of people who simply won’t have the money in their retirement they thought they had. No wonder they are all in uproar when they see the pictures of a mega yacht in the Med which no doubt swallows up money like a garbage disposal. Why do so many bosses work so hard to build a reputation and to treat people fairly only to have all their efforts undermined by other seemingly self absorbed bosses who hit the headlines by putting their own self interests ahead of those they are (or were) responsible for? There really does come a point when wealth is obscene – and perhaps this is one of those examples.

The lesson in all this though is that trust is hard won and very easily lost and unfortunately poor judgement or bad behaviour on the part of one very visible leader can impact how all other leaders in society are seen. Tarnished simply by having the same job title.  Those in the estate agency business might be smiling at the irony of this!

As a slight aside, curiously in my view we have very few whistle blowers in big business, despite having had legal protection around this for some considerable time. Some attribute that to the impact scandals have on share prices and the fact that so many of those in senior positions who are in a position to see the wrongdoing are also shareholders. It takes a brave and rare soul to whistle blow when that very act could jeopardise your own financial stability or wealth.

But returning to the topic of ‘obscene’, what truly horrifying example of leadership is being set to the world by the US with its embarrassing and humiliating leadership battle. If this is what a successful leader looks like, then all of us aspiring leaders might as well all give up now.  I am truly mortified at their lack of dignity, their lack of respect, their lack of humility, their lack of integrity and their lack of emotional intelligence about what the world truly values. Intelligent, self aware US citizens and business leaders must be cringing given how damaging this is to the ‘US brand’ around the world.

At a leadership course I led last week we talked about how successful leadership is no longer determined by your education, wealth or assumed power. Only the deliberately blind or ignorant can fail to see that what the world is changing fast and what society now seeks in a leader is someone who is emotionally intelligent and who demonstrates, day after day, behaviours such as vision, insight and humility.

Where that leaves the US, Uber and BHS though, I have no clue!

Thoughts, opinions? Please share them in the box below…

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