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Power Sheet – October 19, 2015

The week ahead is packed with leadership drama, yet much of the news coverage won’t tell you about that. It’s a reminder that whenever we read about companies or countries, we’re actually reading about leaders – and if we remember that, the news suddenly gets a lot more interesting and instructive.

Start with this week’s earnings reports – dry stuff, they may seem, but many of them are progress reports on a leader’s transformation efforts, and often the stakes are high. IBM will update Ginni Rometty’s bet on remaking the company around cognitive computing and cloud-based services. At United Technologies, new CEO Gregory Hayes is deconglomerating, selling the Sikorsky helicopter business to Lockheed Martin in an effort to revive a plunging stock. Caterpillar’s Doug Oberhelman made his name before the financial crisis, before he was CEO, when he forced managers in the middle of a boom to plan for a bust. Now times are tough again, and he’s again implementing a bust strategy; the stock is down 37% in the past 15 months.

At American Express, Ken Chenault is trying to recover from the costly end of a long exclusive arrangement with Costco and bracing for a possibly adverse court ruling on how retailers steer customers toward different credit cards – all while, at age 64, realigning a succession plan after heir-apparent Ed Gilligan died of a heart attack on a plane in March. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella continues the high-wire act of adapting one of history’s greatest business models to a new era for infotech; for example, he recently gave away the company’s new operating system. McDonald’s board made Steve Easterbrook CEO last March and told him to rescue the company, which was floundering as U.S. sales fell for six straight quarters, franchisees were rebelling, and some major cities were raising the minimum wage. Investors like his plan, and his challenge now is maintaining their faith as the stock hits new all-time highs.

Amid all those earnings reports, China announced third-quarter GDP growth of 6.9%, which beat forecasts but marked the slowest reading since 2009. Even if (like me) you’re skeptical of China’s official statistics, they can’t deny reality forever, and the slowing growth further chips away at president Xi Jinping’s stature and authority. Now look at the second-order effects. China’s slowdown is one factor in declining prices for commodities from Canada and Argentina – and both those countries are holding national elections this week. Not a good environment for incumbents. Polls say Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party will likely finish second to the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, son of former PM Pierre Trudeau. Argentina’s incumbent president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, must step down because of term limits, and none of the three main candidates seems likely to get a majority, in which case a runoff will be necessary.

That’s a lot of human leadership drama just in this week’s scheduled events. The political coverage will emphasize the people while most of the corporate coverage won’t. But all of it will be about leaders, whether it says so or not.

What We’re Reading Today

China’s economy grows by 6.9%

While it’s the slowest gross domestic product quarterly growth figure since 2009, it’s better than what some feared. The underlying figure show that China’s economy is stabilizing, a trend Premier Li Keqiang can thank Chinese consumers for. Fortune

DraftKings continues Nevada operations

Despite a ruling by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for all daily fantasy sites to cease operations in the state immediately, Jason Robins‘ company continued to collect bets this weekend. The Nevada Gaming Control Board is monitoring the situation, and if DraftKings fails to comply with their ruling, it could be considered a crime. NYT

Chinese hackers attempt attacks on U.S. companies

The security firm CrowdStrike Inc. says it has stopped intrusions from hackers linked to China from breaching its technology and pharmaceutical customers. Some of the cyberattacks came the day before and the day after President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, where they agreed to a hacking ceasefire. WSJ

Canada heads to the polls

Voters will select the next parliament, which will then decide who will become prime minister. Conservative Stephen Harper has held the role for nearly a decade, but he now faces a close race with the Liberal Party and its youthful leader Justin Trudeau. Even the current third place candidate Tom Mulclair has a chance of stepping in if his New Democratic Party performs well at the polls. The Guardian

Building a Better Leader

More people are calling in sick (when they’re not)

Some 38% of workers took a sick day when they weren’t actually feeling ill this year, compared to 28% last year. But the portion of people caught attempting to skip out is also on the rise.  Las Vegas Review Journal

Focus can have a downside

When you’re too determined to achieve a single goal, it can ruin your team’s morale. Fortune

Nearly 1/3 of industries are dominated by…

…a highly concentrated number of companies. It’s the result of mega-mergers, which are testing the limits of antitrust laws. WSJ

Worth Considering

Amazon sues fake review sites

Jeff Bezos‘ company has filed suit in Seattle, Washington against 1,114 people on fiverr.com, claiming they’re selling fake reviews. Amazon isn’t suing fiverr.com, though, only the individuals. MarketWatch

Alibaba lobbies the U.S. government… 

…to stay off the U.S. government’s list of e-commerce sites that sell pirated goods. Jack Ma’s company has faced rising complaints over the sale of counterfeit goods on Alibaba’s websites, so it has written to the U.S. Trade Representative, offering evidence of its strategy to safeguard intellectual property.  Reuters

U.S. probe into Walmart’s Mexican unit comes up short

Investigators once believed they were going to find widespread bribery and corruption at the unit in order to increase its footprint in Mexico. But the investigation will likely lead to a much smaller case. It’s welcome news for CEO Douglas McMillon, who’s busy defending other parts of the company as sales sputter. Fortune

Up or Out

Deutsche Bank has parted ways from investment-banking co-head Colin Fan, who was replaced by Garth Ritchie, global equities leader. It’s part of a larger structural change at the bank. Also COO Henry Ritchotte will step away from the management board to focus on building a new digital banking operation. MarketWatch

Sherwin-Williams has named President John Morikis as its next CEO, beginning in January. He replaces Christopher Connor who will become executive chairman. Cleveland Plain Dealer

Fortune Reads and Videos

Former Apple exec tests Theranos tech

What Jean-Louis Gassée, former head of Apple engineering, found is concerning. Fortune

YouTube to add subscription service

The ad-free experience will also include exclusive videos. Fortune

Fairygodboss offers maternity leave resource center

You can compare maternity leave policies across 550 different companies.  Fortune

Oprah Winfrey backs Weight Watchers

She will take a 10% stake in the company and join its board.  Fortune

Today’s Quote

“You will be the disrupter should you choose to do it… Instead of being disrupted, you are the disrupter.” – Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO, discussing the growth of cognitive business at Fortune’s 2015 Most Powerful Women Summit.  Fortune

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau
@ryanderous
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