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Power Sheet – December 21, 2015

The Trump boom continues to grow, and the political pros who have missed it from day one are scrambling for explanations. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley made sure to bash him during their debate on ABC Saturday night, and CBS News headlined, “Donald Trump dominates Democratic debate discussion on Facebook.” NBC’s Meet the Press booked him as a guaranteed high-audience guest Sunday morning. The latest polls show him with his biggest numbers yet. Absolutely no one foresaw this (least of all himself, I strongly suspect). What’s going on?

Just to put my cards on the table: I don’t think Trump should be President (or v.p. or anywhere near any position of government authority), and I’m confident he will not be. But I do think his rise is pretty easy to explain. Like it or not, he’s doing four things that effective leaders do, and doing them extremely well.

He gives voice to the feelings of many people, who become his followers. A recent piece in the Indianapolis Star based on interviews with Trump supporters notes that even though they’re starkly unlike the Ivy League billionaire, “when Donald Trump opens his mouth, they say they hear themselves.” Successful leaders have always done this. Most people yearn for someone who commands a larger stage to articulate what they’re feeling. When Trump calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and his numbers go up, that’s what he’s doing.

He shows fearlessness. For centuries, military leaders literally led armies into battle, inspiring the troops with their courage. Leaders must never show fear. When Republicans, Democrats, and commentators from left to right condemned Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, he was asked if he stood by his statement. Yes, he insisted. Conventional analysts saw this as doom. But his supporters saw it as their man standing up to the authorities who are trying to bring him down.

He shows decisiveness. Aspiring leaders should never forget that people want to be led. They are remarkably willing to support someone who makes firm decisions, and they can’t stand equivocation when they want action. Trump is never mealy-mouthed, even when he’s incoherent. When asked in last week’s debate for his views on America’s nuclear triad, his answer left no doubt that he hadn’t the remotest idea what the nuclear triad is – but he sure sounded firm and decisive, just as he does when he says Clinton “lies like crazy about everything” (as he did yesterday) or Jeb Bush is “dumb as a rock” (as he did in a recent tweet).

Most important, he sees the path to a better tomorrow and says “follow me.” Not that he describes the path in much detail. Actual policy is not his strong suit. But giving hope is central to the leader’s job. Just as President Obama’s campaign slogan “Hope and Change” was brilliantly chosen for 2008, Trump’s “Make America Great Again!” is brilliantly chosen for today’s mood.

Trump hasn’t discovered anything new about leadership. On the contrary, he has discovered what’s old. The Republican field will be winnowed, and I suspect the content of Trump’s positions (and the lack of it) will eventually lead voters elsewhere. But whoever wants to beat him had better learn from him.

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What We’re Reading Today

Fifa suspends Blatter for 8 years

The soccer federation’s ethics committee suspended President Sepp Blatter and  Michel Platini, the head of European soccer’s governing body who was once considered a potential successor to Blatter. The committee ruled that Blatter and Platini were guilty of violations surrounding a $2 million “disloyal payment” to Platini in 2011. Blatter, 79, who had previously announced he would step down as president in February, says he will appeal the decision. BBC

Star Wars sets opening weekend record

With ticket sales of $238 million, the reboot of the sci-fi classic set a North American opening weekend record, surpassing Jurassic World by nearly $30 million. The success is an early vindication of Disney CEO Bob Iger‘s purchase of Lucasfilm and of director J.J. Abrams. The film brought in $517 million globally and doesn’t open in China until Jan. 9. Fortune

The FDA probes Theranos

The agency received two complaints, one in September saying employees were instructed to use Theranos machines for testing while concerns over the technology persisted. The other, filed this month, claimed a herpes test study given to the FDA was flawed. CEO Elizabeth Holmes has struggled to defend her company’s technology, which is the basis of its multi-billion-dollar valuation. Reuters

Sumner Redstone’s daughter strengthens Viacom position

Shari Redstone last year declined her father’s $1-billion offer for her 20% share of National Amusements Inc., the parent company Sumner Redstone uses to hold his shares in Viacom and CBS. The offer would have required her to relinquish the right to become chairwoman of the companies upon his death. The two have had a strained relationship, one that’s improving, but it’s complicated by recent questions of Sumner’s mental capacity. WSJ

Building a Better Leader

Hedge fund billionaire to rank “Just” companies  

Working with spiritual adviser Deepak ChopraPaul Tudor Jones II will rank companies on how well they treat employees, in order to reduce the wealth gap. NYT

PayPal ups maternity leave

New moms can now get up to 16 paid weeks, doubling the old limit and raising pay from 80%. Fortune

Only 55% of 2015 job seekers found a new job… 

…that resulted in a raise. Money

Worth Considering

Inside Bezos’s hands-on approach at WaPo

To turn around the Washington Post, owner Jeff Bezos is taking a customer-first approach mirroring in some ways his tactics as Amazon’s CEO. He’s focused not on profitability but on building scale. He rarely visits the offices, instead hosting conference calls with management every two weeks. WSJ

Obama says Trump’s rise comes from blue-collar men 

In a radio interview, President Barack Obama said that slow growing wages for blue-collar jobs has created anger among workers and that Donald Trump has done a good job of tapping into that frustration.   NPR

Is Spain ungovernable?

Parliamentary elections on Sunday end a 33-year stretch of two-party rule. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s center-right Partido Popular party won 123 seats — losing its majority in parliament —  while its rival, the center-left Social Workers Party, won 90 seats. Two new parties won significant numbers, 69 seats for the leftist Podemos party and 40 for the liberal Ciudadanos party. The eventual governing coalition, whatever it may be, leaves Rajoy’s tenure in question. Fortune

Up or Out

Billionaire James Packer has resigned as Crown Resorts’ director. He may be pursuing a purchase of the company in order to take it private. Financial Times

Fortune Reads and Videos

61,000 fake Star Wars items flood Alibaba

The counterfeit merchandise highlights a continuing problem for Jack Ma‘s company, which insists the issue is under control.  Fortune

Toshiba to quit PC and TV businesses

After an accounting scandal led to a $1.3-billion loss, the company will also shed 7,000 jobs and focus on chips and nuclear energy.  Fortune

Apple signs patent deal with Ericsson

The companies had been fighting over patents for a year. Analysts estimate the settlement will give 0.5% of all iPad and iPhone sales to Ericsson.  Fortune

Martin Shkreli’s Twitter account hacked

It occurred hours after Shkreli used Twitter to plead his innocence. Fortune

Today’s Quote

“I do think that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through — because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flat-lining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck — you combine those things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear.

“Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.” – President Barack Obama speaking for the first time about Donald Trump’s rise in Republican polls.  NPR

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau