Power Sheet – November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015, 3:31 PM UTC

Is Donald Trump superhuman? Or is he depressed, cranky, and making poor judgments? Or is he fibbing?

Produced by Ryan Derousseau

The issue arises because in last week’s Republican debate he mentioned that he sleeps just three to four hours a night. He’s been saying this for years. The day after the debate he claimed to be operating on only 90 minutes of sleep. In evaluating his statements, we’re faced with the three alternatives mentioned above, based on the latest research. And while investigating Donald Trump’s sleep habits may rank low on your to-do list, the issue matters because inadequate sleep is more harmful than most of us realize – and many successful leaders claim, like Trump, to get by on suspiciously little sleep.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi tells me she sleeps about four hours a night. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly sleeps the same amount, as does Martha Stewart; Herb Kelleher reportedly slept four hours while running Southwest Airlines, and Margaret Thatcher did the same as British prime minister. Xerox CEO Ursula Burns tells me she sleeps about five hours, which is how much Bill Clinton reportedly slept as president. And they’re all slackers compared with fashion designer Tom Ford, who reportedly sleeps three hours a night and attributes his success to his energy rather than talent.

Who could blame aspiring leaders for emulating such an impressive group? Yet emulating them could be dangerous, and the danger increases at this time of year, with its focus on meeting annual goals, budgeting, and evaluating employees. For most leaders and up-and-comers, the holidays don’t mean less work; they mean more work and less time in which to do it.

You already know that sleep deprivation is really, really bad for you, but it’s even worse than you think. To summarize, it makes you stupid, depressed, dangerous, unhealthy, and more likely to die. So the question of how much sleep you need is extremely important, and research published just last month is actually somewhat encouraging; it suggests that you don’t need quite as much as you’ve been told. Studying three groups of hunter-gatherers untouched by the modern world, UCLA scientists found they sleep only six to seven hours a night. But that’s still more than all those high achievers cited above.

So are they all lying? My guess is they’re not – not even Trump. Researchers find that a tiny proportion of people, 1% to 3%, can get along fine on four hours or less. Imagine the advantage these so-called short sleepers hold in competitive careers. It makes sense that they’d be heavily over-represented among successful leaders.

Just acknowledge that you’re almost certainly not one of them. (I’m definitely not.) And if you’re not, then trying to be one of them will hurt you, not help you. Take the advice of Arianna Huffington, who has become an evangelist on this topic. Get all the sleep you need. And then, as she says, “sleep your way to the top!”

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What We're Reading Today

Russia states demands for unity against ISIS

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. must drop its demand to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before building a coalition against ISIS. The issue has become a sticking point between President Vladimir Putin, who views Assad as a strong Middle East ally, and President Barack Obama. With the French government urging unity, pressure against the U.S. position could increase. Yahoo

Square IPO set as a unicorn litmus test

With Jack Dorsey's company ready for its initial public offering today, other startups with private-market valuations over $1 billion will be watching to gauge whether investors still have faith in tech companies. The IPO could also greatly influence private investors fearful that going public may not pay off for them. Square's offering price is below its most recent private-market valuation. WSJ

Amazon's large moat

After years of shunning profits in favor of infrastructure investment, Jeff Bezos's company may now be realizing the benefits. Bezos has built a logistical juggernaut  and a customer base so large that any company may find it difficult to compete with Amazon online for many years.  NYT

Flipping the script

At an Asia-Pacific Summit, President Obama played an unusual role on stage. Instead of getting interviewed, he became the interviewee, throwing questions to Alibaba founder Jack Ma on government-business ties. Ma jokingly suggested the role of government is to reduce taxes and spoke about the potential for clean energy investments.

Building a Better Leader

Travel like an athlete to improve business trips

Having an athlete's discipline can help you bounce back better when you return to the office. Harvard Business Review

When launching a new company...

…don't get hung up on the location. What you sell will dictate where you launch. Fortune

The downside of telecommuting

It can increase a company's exposure to worker's compensation claims. Property Casualty 360

Political Maneuverings

Threat of a government shutdown returns

New House Speaker Paul Ryan implicitly warned President Obama that government funding could run out Dec. 11 if a new spending bill doesn't include riders that scale back some regulation of business. While the general amount of spending has been agreed upon and passed, Congress must still apportion the funds for next year. WSJ

Obama to China: Stop building in the South China Sea

After speaking with Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Obama called for bold actions to settle tensions. He asked China and President Xi Jinping to "halt reclamation" and construction in the area. China claims it has full authority to dredge reefs in the South China Sea, turning them into islands and potential aircraft runways. BBC

Jeb Bush urges moderation on refugees

As his GOP presidential rivals Donald Trump and Chris Christie come out strongly against allowing Syrian refugees into the country, Jeb Bush has struck a different note. He's urging America to embrace refugees that enter after a strict background check, mirroring his stance on immigration. Fortune

Up or Out

Wells Fargo has made its head of wholesale banking, Tim Sloan, its new president and COO. BusinessWire

Bob Stutz, former head of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, will join Salesforce as its chief analytics officer. Re/code

Fortune Reads and Videos

SEC will look at unicorn funding

The agency will investigate whether mutual funds use proper procedures in valuing startups. Fortune

U.S. plans to fine Barclay's $100 million

In a separate case from accusations it rigged the foreign exchange market, Barclay's is under fire for allegedly manipulating its electronic trading platform. Fortune

Lyft wants to raise $500 million

The new funding would value the Uber rival at $4 billion.  Fortune

SpaceX to win U.S. military satellite launch contract

Only last year, Elon Musk's company sued the government for the right to bid on these projects. Fortune

Today's Quote

"We believe the attorney general’s view of this issue is based on an incomplete understanding of the facts about how our business operates and a fundamental misinterpretation and misapplication of the law." - DraftKings statement following New York AG Eric Schneiderman's decision to ban daily fantasy sports in New York.

"Here, chance plays just as much of a role (if not more) than it does in games like poker and blackjack. A few good players in a poker tournament may rise to the top based on their skill; but the game is still gambling. So is D.F.S [daily fantasy sports]." - Schneiderman responding in court papers, asking for an injunction to force FanDuel and DraftKings to cease operations in the state. FanDuel has complied with Schneiderman's decision while the battle continues in court.  NYT

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