Why it Never Pays to Be a Jackass: In Business and Life [Opinion]

Latest posts by Matt Villano (see all)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own, and do not reflect the viewpoints of StartupNation Media Group, LLC.

Lessons in how to have lasting impact

While we might be living in an age of sanctioned jackass leadership, it rarely works out for those of us who want to stand for greatness and equality. Allow me to explain.

Exhibit A: Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber who was ousted earlier this year for cultivating a bro-heavy culture that encouraged sexual harassment and discrimination. Exhibit B: James Damore, the allegedly alt-right Google software engineer who was fired after penning and publishing a 3,300-word manifesto of misogyny and diatribe against diversity.

Both cases offer fascinating (and blatant) lessons about how bad behavior is also bad business.

Sure, in more than eight years with Uber, Kalanick transformed the company from startup into ride-share market leader, a true disruptor. And, yes, in his 3.5 years with Google, undeniably Damore helped crunch code that made the company stronger. At the same time, both men actively promulgated hate and fear. Both men were jerks to women. Both poisoned their respective workplaces and (by extension) impacted the bottom line. Eventually they both paid the ultimate price.

The lesson here for budding entrepreneurs and nascent leaders is one of accountability.

Know who you are, but remember customers (and, by extension, shareholders) come first. Be bold, but be smart about when and where you leverage that message. Stand out, but make sure you stand out for the right reasons. History does not smile favorably upon any sort of notorious legacy. It’s a scourge on culture and business. Instead, create a foundation of opportunity and make your mark — one that matters.

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