Running for president must be one of the most stressful activities a person can engage in. I realize that firefighters, hostage negotiators, Navy SEALs, and others go through times of indescribable stress, but they pass. Running for president takes two years, and as far as I can tell, you never get to rest. Now that New Hampshire is voting, the candidates must make hay in South Carolina and Nevada while also preparing for Super Tuesday, just three weeks from today, when 14 states choose convention delegates. Taking a break only damages your chances. It’s the world’s longest, highest-stakes ironman triathlon. That’s why, long ago, the political operatives who worked on the campaigns of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy would check themselves into a hospital on the day after election day.
Our topic today is stress because it’s a centrally important issue for all leaders and it is, like sleep, an issue that big-deal leaders are supposed to laugh at. Sleep? Who needs it? Donald Trump claimed in a debate that he got along fine on three hours a night. Stress? It goes with the territory. Don’t whine about it. But in reality stress hurts you and can kill you, and, like sleep deprivation, it’s an issue that all leaders need to confront.
You know that stress can give you a headache, muscle aches, and indigestion, but it also does much worse. Chronic stress, which is the life of many business and political leaders, can cause anxiety and clinical depression and can be a factor in drug abuse and social withdrawal. These are not trivial possibilities; you may recall a rash of suicides among bankers in the last recession and again between August 2013 and February 2014, many of which were linked strongly to extreme stress. An article in today’s WSJ observes that stress is often an overlooked factor in high cholesterol.
We have no specific reason to believe that stress played a direct role in the heart attack of United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz in October, a few weeks after he was suddenly given the job, or in the hospitalization of Valeant Pharmaceuticals CEO J. Michael Pearson with pneumonia in December. But both men were in extremely stressful situations, and even if stress didn’t cause their health problems, it can slow recovery from any illness. Munoz has since had a heart transplant, and United Continental says he’ll be back by the end of March. Valeant has named an interim CEO and has not said when Pearson will return to work.
The larger point is that leadership is a physical job, though we rarely think of it that way. When Hedley Donovan stepped down as editor-in-chief of Time Inc. (Fortune’s parent) in 1979, he was asked to name the most important trait for the role. He said nothing about intellect or editorial judgment; “stamina” was his answer. Leaders need to accept that stress is a genuine danger and must be addressed like any other. More immediately, the evidence suggests there’s good reason to be concerned about the health of the presidential candidates. Let’s hope that all of them, even the ones you hate, make it.
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What We're Reading Today
New Hampshire primes for vote
The primary gets underway as voting opened for most of the state at 8 am. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders look like prohibitive favorites, but who comes in second on the GOP side and how close Hillary Clinton gets to Sanders is worth watching. Marco Rubio took some hits during Saturday’s Republican debate but hopes for a strong showing to solidify his place for the long-haul. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has jumped unexpectedly to second place in New Hampshire polls, but the state’s voting is famously hard to predict.
US expands probe into Fiat Chrysler cars
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has widened its investigation into a gear shift problem in up to 856,000 Fiat Chrysler vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Charger. It has received over 300 complaints of cars rolling away after drivers left them, and the “E-shift” or electronic gear shift is the suspected cause. But a malfunction may not be the problem for Sergio Marchionne‘s company. Instead the feature may not be intuitive enough, confusing drivers.
Upheaval at Zenefits
CEO Parker Conrad, founder of the HR software startup with unicorn status, has stepped down and been replaced by COO David Sachs. Zenefits has run into legal issues involving the sale of insurance by unlicensed brokers. Internal controls and compliance were not a focus of Conrad, which seems to be why he resigned.
Google CEO receives $199-million stock grant
The stock given to CEO Sundar Pichai makes him one of the highest paid leaders of a public company. The 273,328 class C shares of Google’s parent company Alphabet will vest quarterly through 2019. Even by Silicon Valley standards, the amount is staggering.
Building a Better Leader
A LinkedIn for blue-collar workers
Jobcase focuses on skills as opposed to career continuity.
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To protect yourself from an unethical boss…
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Obama will unveil his 2017 budget proposal today…
…and House Republicans have rejected the plan without seeing it. It’s President Barack Obama‘s last budget proposal, which calls for $4 trillion in spending, including increases in cancer research and a $10-a-barrel tax on oil. While a president’s budget proposal is rarely enacted, the House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen say they will break with a 41-year tradition and not allow the president’s budget director, Shaun Donovan, to explain the plan’s contents.
Michael Bloomberg acknowledges considering a run
The former New York City mayor confirmed he’s contemplating running for president, calling the current discussions by candidates “distressingly banal.” Bloomberg hasn’t committed but says he would have to put his name in the ring as an independent candidate by March.
UN Panel proposes carbon emission limits on planes
A United Nations panel voted in favor of cutting the carbon that planes can emit while cruising by 4%. The rules would require all new planes to be compliant by 2020 and planes already in production to be modified by 2023. While environmentalists argue the plan doesn’t go far enough, since planes emit most of their carbon during take-off and landing, the Obama administration and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta praised the move. The decision will go to the UN’s 36-nation governing council for a vote.
Up or Out
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Verizon could provide the key to Yahoo’s troubles
If it bought Yahoo’s Internet business, as it has expressed interest in doing, it could open the way for Alibaba to buy back the large bloc of its stock that Yahoo holds.
Alcoa CEO says the split of the firm into two companies…
…will increase long-term value, though everyone seems focused on the short term.
France attacks Facebook’s business model
The country says Mark Zuckerberg‘s company is breaking the law by not allowing users the chance to opt out of target advertisement profiling.
The NSA is overhauling its spy operations
Cyber espionage and domestic cyber protection groups will now work together.