We get excellent opportunities to assess the performance of in-the-news leaders every day this week:
Monday – German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a convention of her Christian Democratic Union party. Time, which last week named her its Person of the Year, notes that she’s the world’s most powerful woman and head of the country that drives the world’s largest economy, Europe’s. But her policy of welcoming refugees threatens her political future.
Tuesday – The Republican presidential candidates debate in Las Vegas. There’s only one story: Will Donald Trump’s opponents be able to make hay from his increasingly outrageous statements? Or will they continue to hold back, on the weakening theory that he will inevitably flame out, and his supporters will be up for grabs? The furor over his call for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. hasn’t died down, and yesterday he told Fox News that Hillary Clinton has “killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.” A new WSJ/NBC News poll show his support higher than ever.
Wednesday – The Fed announces its interest rate decision. Chair Janet Yellen has done an excellent job of telegraphing an increase in rates – at least it’s excellent if the Fed actually, finally, really raises rates. If it does, the move will be the biggest anticlimax in memory, which is just what markets like. Anything else will seriously compromise Yellen’s leadership.
Also on Wednesday, Valeant Pharmaceuticals holds a half-day presentation for Wall Street analysts. It will be instructive to see what kind of leadership CEO J. Michael Pearson shows his investors amid the hurricane over drug pricing that has engulfed his company. And Wednesday is when the stopgap government funding measure passed by Congress last week runs out. The big story will be whether House Speaker Paul Ryan can organize enough Republican votes to pass a full-year bill. He and minority leader Nancy Pelosi had dinner in his office Friday night.
Thursday – Russian President Vladimir Putin holds his annual press conference. You read that right. The head of a 143-million-person democracy holds one regularly scheduled press conference per year at which over 1,000 journalists attempt to ask him questions. Putin does respond to the press on other occasions, for example when meeting with leaders of other nations.
Friday – Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. If it’s anything less than the biggest opening in the history of the universe, it could be a serious problem for Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger. His overall record is stellar, but a plunge in the stock price over the summer put him on the defensive. The stock has recovered, but that’s with a mega-success for the new film, the first Star Wars entry under Disney ownership, built into the price.
Saturday – The Democratic presidential candidates debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Will Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley gain any traction at all against Hillary Clinton? Will she bother to talk about those two, or use her time to attack the Republicans as the party of Trump? In the latest CBS/New York Times poll of likely Democratic primary voters, Clinton has 52% support, Sanders 32%, and O’Malley 2%.
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What We're Reading Today
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz lead latest polls
With a surge following rhetoric around responses to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, Donald Trump gained four percentage points in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll; 27% of Republicans support him. Ted Cruz jumped to second with 22%, gaining “very conservative” and “value voters” from Ben Carson‘s dramatic decline. Carson has dropped from first place in the previous poll to fourth. Marco Rubio comes in third with 15% support.
Seattle to decide if Uber and Lyft drivers can unionize
Today the city council will vote on whether drivers for ride hailing services can bargain collectively over pay and working conditions. It’s a concern not just for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Lyft’s Logan Green; other cities could read the results as a test case for responding to the growth of freelance workers.
Climate change pact agreed to in Paris
Leaders in Paris adopted a landmark climate change agreement at the COP21 talks this weekend. Its goal is to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius while trying to hold the increase to 1.5 degrees. Countries set their own carbon emission reduction targets; leaders will meet every five years to update the plans and discuss how the goals will be reached. President Barack Obama praised the pact, as did United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande.
VW’s culture under the microscope
As Volkswagen tries to uncover the full extent of the emissions scandal, the company’s confident, cutthroat, and insular management culture has come under scrutiny. CEO Matthias Müller has acknowledged the issue, even suggesting getting rid of the corporate jet, a full-size Airbus. The corporate structure contributed to the problem, in part because engineering teams sit in silos and are highly competitive with each other.
Building a Better Leader
In order to avoid groupthink…
…set up ways your team can argue through structured debate. Randomly assign different members to support different sides of the discussion.
Harvard Business Review
It’s never too late
The average age of CEOs in the S&P 500 has reached 56.9, up 3% over a decade. Here are the oldest ones still in the corner office.
There’s a good way and a bad way…
…to waste time. While it can rejuvenate, make sure you procrastinate in the most productive way possible.
Activist investor calls for Dow CEO’s ouster
While Daniel Loeb supports the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont, he believes the decision was rushed by Dow CEO Andrew Liveris. Loeb said in a letter to board members that Liveris wanted to beat a deadline this weekend, the expiration of a standstill agreement prohibiting Liveris from speaking publicly about Dow, leading to unfinished agreements on leadership, board makeup, and breakup strategy. Directors, including those Loeb had nominated, defended Liveris, who will serve as executive chairman of DowDuPont if the merger goes through.
Cheniere Energy’s CEO removed as Icahn ups stake
The energy company’s board voted unanimously to remove Charif Souki as CEO. Souki and the board disagreed over the 2016 budget and the direction of the company. The decision comes also as activist investor Carl Icahn increased his stake from 8.2% to 13.8%. Board member Neal Shear will replace Souki until a permanent successor is named.
French hold off far right’s rise
In local runoff elections on Sunday that could have dramatically altered the direction of France’s government, the Socialist and center-right Gaullist parties held off the rising far right Front National of Marine Le Pen. Despite leading in the first round of votes, FN didn’t win any of France’s six regions, greatly decreasing the group’s chance of gaining the presidency in 2017. The Gaullists, headed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, won 41% of the votes followed by French President Francois Hollande‘s Socialists with 30%.
Up or Out
Fortune Reads and Videos
The makers of Sharpie are merging with Mr. Coffee
In a $13-billion deal, Newell Rubbermaid will buy Jarden.
The ‘Chinese Warren Buffett’ returns
Fosun International Chairman Guo Guangchang had disappeared last week; it was later revealed that he was “assisting the authorities” in an investigation.
Facebook’s Hamburg offices vandalized
The European head of Facebook is under investigation for not removing hate speech focused on migrants fast enough, although police wouldn’t speculate on the motive for the attack.
Apple Music signs with Taylor Swift
The service will stream a live concert from her “1989 World Tour.”