Image is valuable currency in our modern world. It can make or break a brand, or a career. Entire nations, meanwhile, also have to consider how they are seen — at home and abroad. We also know that for both companies and countries, image so often starts at the top.
Take the now former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick. Here's a man who co-founded and led one of the most influential companies of the past decade. Yet the company's meteoric success has not shielded the image of its brand from major deterioration over the past year, which now reaches well beyond protests from taxi drivers losing work to Uber competition.
Among other allegations were incidents of alleged sexual harassment, bullying and intellectual property theft. Kalanick himself (both in private and in business) had become a liability for his company with his renegade attitude. His bad behavior was exposed for the whole world to see earlier this year when he was filmed having a heated argument with one Uber driver over the company's falling fares.
For the company's investors, this all presented a growing risk that the brand's troubled management was also a problem of image that could only be solved by forcing out the man at the top. Kalanick was shown the exit door late Tuesday night so as to have "room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history."
Another notable leadership change arrived this morning in Saudi Arabia with King Salman's decision to remove his nephew and crown prince, 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef, and name as his successor his own son, 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman.
A 2015 photo of Prince Salman (left) along with then U.S. Defense Secretary Ash
Nayef, who was also removed from his post as Interior Minister, was highly respected in his country as well as in Washington for dismantling al-Qaeda's Saudi networks. But his younger and bolder cousin gradually established himself as the face of the kingdom's future, taking the lead on Saudi Arabia's bid to overhaul its oil-dependent economy. Perhaps more importantly, Mohammed bin Salman (also known by his initials MBS), beyond overseeing the war in Yemen, played a crucial role in the recent isolation of Qatar and vowed last month to take "the battle" to archenemy Iran.
Against the young and hardline image of MBS, there was little the discreet Nayef could do. The change in the line of succession sends a strong signal to the Arab world and beyond. With King Salman aged 81, his ambitious son, who has been described by some as "the most dangerous man in the world," is now clearly and perhaps quickly on his way to running Saudi Arabia. Remember those initials: MBS. Even before the man becomes king, his image will have plenty of time to weigh on an unstable and ever critical region.