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Airbnb CEO's advice to embattled leaders: 'Have some humility'

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, left, and Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb.
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Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, left, and Brian Chesky CEO of Airbnb.

What should a leader like Uber's Travis Kalanick do in the midst of a corporate culture crisis?

"Take a step back and have some humility," Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky said at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of New York on Monday. At least that's Chesky's advice for any CEO put in a tough leadership position.

Regarding Uber's latest challenges, Airbnb's Chesky said Kalanick is "doing everything he should do at this point" and has "owned up" to the problems.

His best words of wisdom moving forward would be to not be defensive so easily, Chesky said. And that can be hard to do.

"People accuse me of things, and I want to be defensive," he said. The Airbnb co-founder says he has to "cool down," take a step back and ask, "Is that true?"

Uber's CEO recently said he had ordered an investigation within the company after a former employee published an account alleging sexual harassment and gender bias during her time there.

The account, published online by author and engineer Susan Fowler, begins with her joining Uber in November 2015, and claims there were multiple instances of managers and human resource representatives acting poorly.

After things spiraled further out of control, Uber's Kalanick then wrote an apology to employees, saying he "must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up."

Chesky said he hasn't talked with Kalanick since the latest challenges at Uber began.

Chesky and Kalanick stand to be two of tech's most powerful leaders, as they currently lead the sector's two most valuable private companies. AIrbnb just raised $1 billion in funding that values it at $31 billion, and Uber was reportedly valued at $66 billion in its last funding round.

Watch: Airbnb Super Bowl ads