At Dreamforce yesterday, I moderated a panel of five CEOs on the challenges of leading in an age of accelerating technological transformation. The organizations they represented were diverse—from selling motorcycles (Jason Chinnock of Ducati North America), to hosting video (Susan Wojcicki of You Tube), to operating casinos (Mark Frissora of Caesars), to banking (Stephen Bird of Citi Global Consumer Banking) to training girls (Sylvia Acevedo of Girl Scouts USA.).
Yet they all sounded like they faced the same challenge—how to create cultures that can identify, adopt, and embrace rapid innovation.
As a final question, I asked them the most important leadership lesson they had learned for managing rapid change. Frissora emphasized the importance of transparency, and Wojcicki echoed that by telling how she holds a management meeting each week at which any employee can ask her any question. Acevedo, noting her organization is largely made up of volunteers, talked of the importance of showing people respect. Bird said he works to create a workplace free from fear, so employees are willing to experiment and take risks. And Chinnock finished up by quoting this advice, which he said he heard just just two days earlier, from another conference attendee:
“Leadership is 35% coaching, and the rest is following. You can’t have all the answers; you have to empower others to find them.”
Words to live by. More news below.
• A Tale of Two Techies: Tencent and Snap
Chinese internet giant Tencent bought a more-than 10% stake in Snapchat parent Snap on a day of contrasting fortunes for the two companies that says a lot about their relative health. Snap had earlier published a dog’s breakfast for its third-quarter report, while this morning in Hong Kong, Tencent’s e-book arm China Lit popped 84% on its stock market debut, the best performance among major IPOs this year. Snap could use the vote of confidence, while for Tencent, it’s barely more than a run-of-the-mill addition to a portfolio that already includes Tesla Motors and the world’s biggest online games.
• Democrats Break Their Losing Streak
Democrats swept a handful of East Coast elections on a night that broke a dispiriting losing streak over the last year, and showed that the President’s weak approval ratings aren’t just fake news. Ralph Northam won the Governorship of Virginia ahead of the GOP’s Ed Gillespie, while Phil Murphy beat Ken Guadagno for the right to succeed Chris Christie in New Jersey. Bill de Blasio was re-elected mayor of New York by an unsurprisingly handy margin. On the West Coast, Jenny Durkan kept the Democrats in charge in Seattle after the resignation of Mayor Ed Murray due to a sex scandal.
• But Ackman Can’t Break His
Bill Ackman’s old magic touch continues to elude him. The fund manager failed to get any of its three nominees onto the board of Automatic Data Processing in his proxy battle with the company’s management—a sign that investors no longer respond to his brand of activism. Korn Ferry vice chairman Alan C. Guarino wrote for Fortune Insiders that the best tactic for CEOs who don’t want to have to deal with activists taking potshots at their companies is to think and act more like activists themselves.
• Saudi Arabia Follows the Money
Saudi Arabia is planning to seize up to $800 billion in cash and assets belonging to the 60 or so officials and royal family members it arrested at the weekend, according to The Wall Street Journal’s sources. The scale of the vested interests is such that it’s easy to understand why some are saying Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman may have overreached himself. Seizing the assets could be tricky, given that many are held abroad, but he should at least be able to get enough to pay the world’s biggest hotel bill, having detained many of the 60 at the $4,000-a-night Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.
Around the Water Cooler
• Lost in Translation: When Coastal Celebs Tout Heartland Drinks
The social media tar and feathers crew were still out in force after Hollywood’s Mila Kounis boasted of donating to Planned Parenthood under the name of Vice-President Mike Pence. Outraged conservatives were quick to announce a boycott of Jim Beam, which Kounis endorses. The furore wasn’t lost in translation in Tokyo: shares in Beam owner Suntory closed down 0.5% Wednesday, underperforming both broad and sectoral indexes.
• Beijing Kills Viacom’s China Deal
Chinese regulators have nixed the deal under which Viacom would have received $1 billion from Shanghai Film and Huahua Media to fund forthcoming movies. It’s the latest sign of Beijing cracking down on outbound investment that it doesn’t see as central to its strategic priorities, and follows the thwarting of Wanda Group’s move on Dick Clark Productions earlier this year.
• The Mouse’s Big Tin Ears
Walt Disney made an abrupt about turn from an ill-judged attempt to punish the Los Angeles Times for daring to investigate its business pratices. The House of Mouse had initially banned the LAT from advance screenings of its movies in response to the company’s use of tax breaks and other incentives at Anaheim. Apparently it neither knew nor cared how that would play at a time when the lurid consequences of Hollywood’s manipulation of the media are being laid bare through the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Disney’s approach to Fox may show that it hasn’t lost its business sense, but it could still do with a healthy dose of the common variety.
• Marissa Mayer, Come on Down!
Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee regarding the massive cyber hack that breached all 3 billion of the company’s member accounts. The Hill reported that Mayer had declined multiple invitations to appear before the committee voluntarily. Mayer left Yahoo with a $23 million severance deal after Verizon’s acquisition of the company for $4.5 billion.
Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; email@example.com