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Power Sheet – October 13, 2015

Yesterday, I suggested that business leaders imagine what would happen if, like political leaders, they had to be elected. Turns out we don’t have to imagine, at least with regard to CEOs in the aggregate. Leslie Gaines-Ross, the insightful chief reputation strategist at the Weber Shandwick communications firm, pointed out that her company has asked more than 1,700 executives around the world if they would vote for their company’s CEO, given the chance. These were c-suite managers of all kinds except CEOs. Result: Only 61% said yes. Of the rest, 28% said they’d vote to get rid of their CEO, and 11% weren’t sure.

This suggests that quite a few companies are in trouble. Not that an effective CEO must be loved by all, but remember, these respondents aren’t rank-and-file workers who rarely see the CEO; they’re top executives who work with him or her all the time, and who know the company’s real issues. If 28% of them think the chief is awful, and 11% think he or she might be awful, then a substantial number of companies have probably got the wrong boss.

Maybe electing the boss should be a more widespread practice. It’s far from unheard-of. The big four professional services firms, Deloitte, KPMG, EY, and PWC, are partnerships that elect their boss. In April, KPMG’s partners elected Lynne Doughtie U.S. CEO. Deloitte had elected Cathy Engelbert CEO in February. The senior partners of the McKinsey consulting firm in January re-elected Dominic Barton to a third three-year term.

Electing the boss seems to work fine for those businesses. Some people embrace a far more radical version of the practice. Dane Atkinson, co-founder of a small data analytics firm called SumAll, posted a passionate manifesto on TechCrunch last summer called “Executives and Managers Should All be Elected.” The company is organized into eight teams, and every quarter, each team elects its leader. Higher level leaders are elected less often, but even Atkinson could be voted out of his job. He began the practice four years ago. His judgment now:

“I would argue that self-electing teams are the antidote to all the spiteful bosses, petty politicking and bureaucratic inertia that scare away talent and strangle innovation. Whether you run a fresh startup or 50-year-old enterprise, self-electing teams will make your company a better place to work.”

Other companies have been electing leaders for years. Yesterday, I failed to mention Semco Group, the Brazilian company that was long run by Ricardo Semler, the founder’s son, on radically democratic principles. Workers rated their bosses by secret ballot and could prevent new managers from being hired. Often, the management philosophy went beyond democracy to something like anarchy; many employees could set their own pay and bonus.

Most business leaders hear about these bizarre practices and think, “that could never work in our company.” But – exactly why not?

What We’re Reading Today

SABMiller agrees to merge with A-B InBev

At least in principal. The proposed $104 billion deal would unite the No. 1 and No. 2 largest brewers in the world, accounting for one-third of all beer sold. It’s a coup for Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito. However, if the deal is sealed, Brito will need to maneuver the beer giant through antitrust clearance in key markets. There’s a stipulation that could leave A-B InBev open to litigation if he fails. Fortune

Barclays close to naming ex-JP Morgan exec as CEO

Jes Staley, who currently is a managing partner of the hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management, previously led JPMorgan’s investment banking division. By naming Staley CEO, it may signal a growing focus on investment banking at Barclays, a business line that has dragged down the bank’s recent performance. Staley would replace Antony Jenkins, who was dismissed from the bank in July. Reuters

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders set to debate

The first Democratic presidential debate will take place tonight. The focus will be on Hillary Clinton and whether she can shift the focus away from her use of private email for official purposes while she served as Secretary of State. Bernie Sanders has a chance to question if Clinton’s recent leftward movements are real. Three other candidates—Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee—will vie for a Carly Fiorina-like rise. Then there’s Vice President Joseph Biden, who won’t be at the debate but has aides researching filing deadlines to avoid making a decision until November. USA Today

Paul Ryan’s image makeover 

Media personalities on the far-right have begun to position the House representative from Wisconsin as too liberal to serve as Speaker. It’s a dramatic shift from 2012, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Ryan his VP candidate amid concerns that he was too conservative. NYT

Building a Better Leader

Creating value from your introverted employees

Your business will improve with a mix of both introverts and extroverts, according to General Electric’s Beth Comstock Fortune

Nice guys actually can finish first…

…according to JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson. He uses NCAA basketball programs as examples, since the nice guys, like John Wooden, don’t ruin an organization on their way out. LinkedIn

Handling 20 meetings a day

Google’s head of marketing Lorraine Twohill manages it by only doing stand-up meetings and walking one-on-ones. Fast Company

An About-Face

Playboy to drop nudity

Women will still pose for the magazine, but they will no longer be fully unclothed. Top editor Cory Jones proposed the idea last month to founder Hugh Hefner, as online venues serve much of Playboy’s original purpose and previous attempts to update Playboy never took hold. NYT

Eli Lilly pulls late-stage trial for heart drug

CEO John C. Lechleiter‘s decision comes after a third-party suggested there was a low probability that the drug would succeed in treating cardiovascular disease. Eli Lilly will have to take a $90 million charge for ending the trial, and it ends efforts on what once was expected to become a blockbuster drug for the company. Fortune

Ferrari will spin off from Fiat Chrysler

The initial public offering will value the company at nearly $10 billion and it’s in line with Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne‘s goal to turn Ferrari into a standalone luxury brand. Fiat Chrysler will sell 10% of its Ferrari shares with the ultimate goal to separate from it completely. Marchionne will serve as Ferrari’s chairman. Detroit Free Press

Up or Out

Curt Garner, who stepped down as Starbucks CIO last week, will join Chipotle in the same role. Fortune

Former Nebraska Senator and Governor Ben Nelson will step down as CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and return to practicing law. Lincoln Journal Star

Fortune Reads and Videos

“Too much, too soon”

Katie Couric discussed what went wrong when she anchored the evening news at CBS while speaking at the Most Powerful Women Summit. Fortune

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Joe will run

The New York Senator said if she were a betting woman, she would say VP Biden will join the presidential race. Fortune

Democratic debate could be Twitter’s chance…

…to show off its news feature Moments.  Fortune

A new competitor in the China smartphone race

Pepsi?  Fortune

Today’s Quote

“A lot of broadcast networks would not tolerate this type of work. Power is using your position and making a difference.” —Katie Couric, former CBS nightly news anchor, talking about her current work with documentaries. Fortune

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau