Uber's Travis Kalanick fails a big CEO test
For all of my varying thoughts on Uber's triumphs and travails, I've never wavered in believing that Travis Kalanick should remain CEO. But his decision to bail on an interview at the Code Conference later this month, which would have been his first interview since Susan Fowler's sexual discrimination claims (let alone the Waymo lawsuit, exec departures, data privacy questions, etc.), has caused me for the first time to feel that he may not be up for the task.
This isn't about meeting your commitment to the conference organizers or appeasing the media. The reason you do these interviews is to better control the narrative about your company, for an audience that includes potential employees, partners, users and regulators. It's to answer the tough questions everyone is already thinking, or else you just leave them there, hanging in an accusatory haze. And it is the CEO's job to be on that stage, not to instead send out some female flack jackets (including Arianna Huffington, whose own nascent startup should be mortified by this image-sullying distraction).
In the immortal words of Bill Belichick, do your job Travis.