After Steve Jobs was forced out of the company he founded in 1985, he left Apple to form NeXT. He also spent time funding the spinout that would become Pixar, not to mention a movie called Toy Story.
Spending time soon became biding his time. Following NeXT’s merger with Apple, Jobs became CEO and revived the company he helped start.
Travis Kalanick, the former Uber CEO, may be taking a page from the tech icon. In what some have described as a Machiavellian drama, Kalanick could be plotting a triumphant return, telling many that he was “Steve Jobs-ing it.”
Uber is currently shopping for a new leader. Kalanick had previously resigned over allegations of promoting a “bro” culture charged with continuing harassment and sexism, along with other missteps. However, what was meant to be a temporary leave became permanent after key investors demanded his full departure one week later.
Currently, the ride-sharing giant is having trouble attracting candidates with Kalanick remaining on the company’s board, a status he is less than happy about. The former CEO has also stated that he wants to take part in the company’s day-to-day operations, a role that violates Uber’s policy governing the limited access and activity of board members.
The controversial executive presence’s remains a major drawback in locating a successor. Currently, the list of remaining candidates is down to a four-member “boys club. Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, the only woman in the five finalists, all CEOs, has withdrawn from consideration.
Add to that a board lacking cohesion and struggling with internal trust issues and members who have not met with all the candidates. The sum of those unprofessional parts comes from a combination of a dysfunctional search process, an irked CEO who decided to stay put, and continuing leaks to the media.
While comparisons to the Trump administration may be front-of-mind, Kalanick’s story is akin to the tale of Woody from the Jobs-funded Toy Story. The cowboy and leader feared being replaced by a spaceman named Buzz Lightyear and took aggressive steps to prevent being replaced.
In the end, both toys learned to co-exist, a fate that may not have such a happy ending for Uber.