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Power Sheet – November 17, 2015

A few years before Peter Drucker died in 2005, I asked him why all his writings were about management, not leadership. By then leadership had become the hot topic it still is, sounding higher and nobler than mere management, which seemed hopelessly 1950s. Drucker was (and remains) the greatest management writer ever; anything he said on leadership would have been wildly popular. But he wouldn’t go there. I’ll never forget his explanation. “The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao,” he said. “If that’s leadership, I want nothing to do with it.”

It’s time to talk about a difficult topic that can no longer be avoided: the leadership of evil. French authorities have identified the mastermind of the Paris attacks as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a Belgian who has fought for ISIS in Syria and was wanted in Belgium for his role in a terrorist attack that was thwarted in January. He had been targeted by Western airstrikes in Syria. So far we don’t know much more about him – whether he recruited and trained the others who carried out the Paris attacks, or to what extent, if any, ISIS funded and directed him. But if the French authorities have named the right man, we can say with confidence that he was a very effective leader.

The planning, supply, and logistics of the operation probably involved more than the eight men believed to have carried out the attacks, and it all had to be done without attracting the attention of law enforcement. If Abaaoud also recruited and trained the participants, including those who blew themselves up, then his leadership abilities may extend far beyond those required for directing the operation.

A French counterterrorism judge told CNN that Abaaoud would certainly have been in touch with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi about these attacks. If so, that would have made it unusual in ISIS-related terrorism. The prevalent pattern – which reinforces the view that al-Baghdadi is also a highly effective leader – is that such attacks are carried out by independent operators who have been inspired but not directed by ISIS. That’s the conclusion of recently published research by the Terrorism Research Initiative. Of 30 attacks with some connection to ISIS, only six included attackers who were trained by the group; most were carried out by sympathizers on their own. It’s painful but necessary to observe that this is real leadership, of a sort: inspiring others to execute the ISIS mission at no cost to the organization, multiplying its power. The researchers note soberly that such attacks “represent a formidable challenge to Western security agencies.”

Are people like Abaaoud and al-Baghdadi real leaders? I’m afraid I agree with Drucker; evil leaders are leaders nonetheless. But I part with the master on disdaining the whole concept. While we’d like to believe that leaders who represent death and nihilism can never succeed for long, the reality is that they can, as Drucker’s evil troika illustrate. The Paris attacks remind us of leadership’s power, and they remind leaders who represent life and freedom that their message is not enough. They also need to be better leaders than those of the forces of darkness.

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What We’re Reading Today

Microsoft becomes a beacon of security

The once porous company that was known for software bugs has achieved an about-face under CEO Satya Nadella. To manage it, he had to change the culture. Microsoft now spends over $1 billion a year on security. Reuters

China mulls super-regulator for banks

Following the market crash last summer, China’s government is considering merging its bank, insurance, and securities regulators into one entity. President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party are using Great Britain as a model, which now gives the Bank of England more control of the financial sector’s various parts. Reuters

Arrest of high-ranking official leaves Vatican in shock

Lucio Balda last month became the highest ranking Vatican official ever arrested,  for leaking Vatican documents to a reporter. But financial officials of the church can’t understand why Balda would secretly record Pope Francis during meetings and leak documents that showed an old financial system – one Francis had already begun to modernize.
Fortune

Valeant’s newest problem: Female libido pills

Valeant’s latest drug offering has tripped out of the box. The company has sold a total of 227 new Addyi libido pills in the new medication’s first weeks on the market. By comparison, Viagra sold half a million pills in the first month. In order to prescribe the pill, doctors must take a 10-minute online certification course. Valeant CEO Michael Pearson says only about 5,600 doctors have done so, barely 1% of those who could prescribe the pill.
Bloomberg

Building a Better Leader

Healthcare costs have doubled since 2005…

…for employees at midsize and large companies. MarketWatch

There’s an appeal to starting a business in New York City…

…rather than in Silicon Valley. It offers a different culture with fewer entrepreneurial failures. Fortune

Coffee is even better for you than you thought

A new study finds that moderate coffee drinkers (three to five cups a day) had lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and suicide. Entrepreneur

A Global Reaction

French president calls for constitutional power

In his call for arms to fight ISIS, President François Hollande has asked the French parliament to give the government the power to conduct police raids without warrants and hold people under house arrest. He will also seek more surveillance powers and extend the state of emergency for another three months, saying the country is at war.  NYT

Republican governors call to block refugees

But they don’t have the power to do so. If President Barack Obama moves forward with a plan to resettle thousands of refugees in the U.S., governors such as Texas’s Greg Abbott and Alabama’s Robert Bentley have said they wouldn’t let them settle in the state. That action would violate the constitution. Other governors have begun lobbying Congress to act. Fortune

Russia calls plane crash a “terrorist act”

Investigators found traces of a bomb from the Metrojet airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula in October, according to the Kremlin. The Russian government has offered $50 million for any information about the bomb. President Vladimir Putin has stepped up efforts in Syria, while French President Hollande has urged a U.S.-Russian alliance against ISIS. CBS News

Up or Out

Kohl’s has named Sona Chawla its new COO. Fortune

Bob Stutz, head of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, has stepped down. Jujhar Singh, who works in the division, will replace Stutz. TechCrunch

Fortune Reads and Videos

Ford launches app that gives remote access to your car

The Ford Escape will be the first vehicle to feature the tool. Fortune

Walmart’s third quarter results give investors hope

The wage increases seem to be drawing back U.S. consumers. Fortune

Americans likely to leave four vacation days unused

That’s more than Europeans but fewer than South Koreans, who typically leave nine days on the table.  Fortune

Lowe’s plans to rebrand

It will broaden its focus to include the sale of home connection technology. Fortune

Birthday Wishes

Former Republican Congressman and Speaker of the House John Boehner turns 66 today.  Biography

National Security Advisor Susan Rice turns 51.  Biography

Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels turns 71.  Biography

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