If you had just landed from Mars last night at 8 pm EDT, having never heard of the Republican candidates or seen a polling number – if all you had to go on was what you saw in the debate on TV – whom would you have picked as the leaders?
You probably would have picked Donald Trump simply because of the attention all the others paid to him, plus the amount of talking he did, which was more than anyone else. And then you likely would have picked Carly Fiorina for her polished, presidential demeanor and command of policy issues, and Jeb Bush, who also talked a lot, spoke well about policy, and pushed back effectively against Trump’s bluster.
But I suspect you never would have guessed Ben Carson, who was hesitant, uncertain, and practically invisible in the early going. He got warmed up and asserted himself better as the interminable evening wore on, but he alone refused to attack Trump even when presented with obvious opportunities. And yet in all the polls – in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationwide – Carson is the only candidate ranking anywhere near Trump in popularity.
A conundrum of this race, and a lesson for leaders everywhere, is that the two most successful candidates so far are the loudest one and the quietest one. That fact tells us a few things:
-There is no superior leadership style or any definable leadership personality. Style and personality are not what make a leader.
-Authenticity always comes through. As different as Trump and Carson are, they’re both real, and voters can sense it. They can also tell instantly, and generally dismiss, who’s delivering rehearsed, focus-group-tested talking points.
-Differentiation is key. Marketers will tell you that the most important factors in brand power are differentiation and relevance. Trump and Carson are in many ways at opposite ends of a spectrum, and much of their strength comes from being at the ends, not in the middle.
Other observations: Most of the commentary this morning focuses on Fiorina, and rightly so – she performed excellently and will certainly rise in the polls. It remains to be seen whether her record as CEO of Hewlett-Packard will become an issue. She and Trump sniped at each other over this until Chris Christie shut them down by calling their spat “childish” and irrelevant to the voters. He did Fiorina a favor by changing the subject because she was indeed a disastrous CEO. As she now gets more attention, we’ll see if anyone really cares.
Christie was hugely improved over the previous debate. But he still isn’t sufficiently differentiated.
Bush’s performance was once again a snooze until he went after Trump for bringing Bush’s wife into the debate. Then he became authentic and energized. A continuing problem is that he keeps talking about the importance of optimism, and it falls flat. He might heed some advice often given to writers: Don’t tell me, show me. That is, don’t talk about optimism. Be optimistic.
What We’re Reading Today
GM settles with the Justice Department
General Motors agreed to pay $900 million in fines over the faulty ignition switches that led to more than 100 deaths and numerous injuries. Regulators accused GM of hiding the defect for over a decade, but no individuals will be charged. The settlement closes the criminal side of the multi-year crisis, helping Mary Barra‘s company to move forward. Civil litigation remains. NBC News
Microsoft hit with lawsuit over wage discrimination
The suit claims that the practice of ranking employees discriminated against women. Late last year, CEO Satya Nadella was criticized for saying women should trust companies to compensate them equally. This proposed class action suit says Microsoft’s efforts haven’t worked. WSJ
Apple will appeal to the Supreme Court…
…a decision on its e-book pricing. In 2013 it lost a case on the tactics then-CEO Steve Jobs used to enter the book market as Apple launched the original iPad. The court found that Apple fixed prices, and the ruling was upheld on appeal last year, but while some think Apple should let the matter rest, CEO Tim Cook will ask the Supreme Court to consider the case. Fortune
Lyft lands gateway into China
The Uber competitor run by president and co-founder John Zimmer announced a new partnership with popular China-based taxi hailing service Didi Kuaidi. When in China, a Lyft user can call on a Didi cab driver, and vice-versa for Didi users visiting the U.S. It’s a significant inroad into China for Lyft, which received $100 million in funding from Didi and other Chinese companies, including Alibaba, last week. Buzzfeed
Burkina Faso’s government upended
Months after former President Blaise Compaore left office in the face of protests against his attempt for a second 27-year term, presidential guards loyal to Compaore seized temporary President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida. Outsiders are unsure where the two men have been taken, and fears of another military coup have grown. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has announced strong support for Kafando and the temporary government. CNN
Building a Better Leader
One way dishonesty works when negotiating
It’s called paltering, when you make a statement that’s factually true, but the listener draws a conclusion from the words that’s false. President Bill Clinton used it to much infamy. Researchers, though, have found it often works. Quartz
The world’s coolest offices
From AirBnB’s global office design that incorporates real-life listings to Kickstarter’s speakeasy-like library, here are some interesting ideas for tweaking your office decor. Inc.
Managing your former peers
When you’re made the boss of people whose job you once shared, meeting one-on-one with everyone who might feel uncomfortable with the new arrangement goes a long way. Harvard Business Review
Recapping the Debate
Candidates jump at Trump
Many of the GOP presidential candidates came out attacking Trump for his policies, statements, and television shows. Trump fought back, attacking Jeb Bush‘s former-president brother, commenting on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s dramatic drop in the polls, and calling out Senator Rand Paul‘s appearance. NYT
Carly Fiorina stares her way into the spotlight
One of the big winners of the night was former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina. With strong answers on policy, she also invoked women’s thoughts of Trump‘s recent comments about her looks. When Trump tried to backtrack, calling her “beautiful,” Fiorina ignored him with a stare. It’s possibly the first time Trump looked uncomfortable since his presidential campaign began. Washington Post
Ben Carson proposes a radical minimum wage idea…
…at least for Republicans, possibly raising the pay level to find a happy medium. Overall, substance returned to the debate, in which issues such as immigration and national security were also discussed. Fortune
Up or Out
Avis has named the president of its international business, Larry De Shon, its next CEO. He will begin the role in 2016, succeeding Ronald Nelson. MarketWatch
Jamie Miller, previously General Electric’s CIO, has been promoted to CEO of GE’s Transportation business. WSJ
Fortune Reads and Videos
An 8.3 magnitude earthquake rattles Chile
Five deaths have been reported, and President Michelle Bachelet has ordered residents in coastal towns to move to higher ground for fear of a tsunami. Fortune
Stephen Colbert’s ratings fall back
In the early days of the new late-night TV wars, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon has leapt back into the lead. Fortune
Vice President Biden says U.S. should give tax breaks…
…to clean energy companies. Fortune
Exxon has known about climate change since 1977
That’s when researchers within the company first began warning executives about the effects of fossil fuels. Fortune
“You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” – GOP Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina responding during the Republican debate to comments Trump made last week regarding her appearance.
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|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|