Nastiness is a bad thing for leaders, but whether it’s a bad thing for presidential candidates remains to be seen. The latest evidence comes in a poll conducted for the Weber Shandwick communications firm and its Washington-based lobbying division, Powell Tate. The big take-away: Voters absolutely hate incivility in a political candidate and say overwhelmingly that such behavior will affect their vote. They all say it. But do they believe it?
These likely voters seem to agree it’s been an outstanding eight months so far for political rudeness. Democrats say the second- and third-most uncivil candidates have been Republicans Chris Christie and Ted Cruz. Republicans say the second- and third-most uncivil have been Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But even in today’s bitterly fractious environment, America is united on identifying the nastiest presidential candidate of them all: It is of course Donald (“How stupid are the people of Iowa?”) Trump.
The problem is that if voters abhor incivility, and if they agree that by that measure Trump is the worst, then why is he such a dominant candidate? Yes, he lost Iowa, but by only three points in a 12-person field; he absolutely crushed the field in the first true primary in New Hampshire last night. He remains the favorite for the GOP nomination in every national poll.
What gives? I have a theory. Trump is the only candidate who hosted a reality TV series, and it was extremely successful; The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice ran for 12 seasons on NBC. He knows in his bones what TV producers have long known and the other candidates are learning: Incivility (“You’re fired!”) is good TV. Election contests have become reality TV shows, and a candidate who can give voice to what lots of voters are thinking, and do it in a way that’s good TV, offers a highly effective package. Sanders is similarly channeling the anxiety and anger of millions; he’s cranking up the Hillary insults and as he showed on Tuesday evening, it’s working, making him a fearsome challenger to Clinton’s vastly superior fundraising network and organizational prowess.
There’s just one other problem: Incivility may be an asset for a candidate in today’s environment, at least in the early going, but it’s a heavy liability for a leader. In government, business, or any other realm, rude, nasty leaders rarely succeed. They occasionally rise high, as we all probably know from experience. But leaders must work with many constituencies, and antagonizing them gratuitously is usually not good strategy. My own observation is that the most successful leaders may be tough, intense, and blunt, but they aren’t rude or nasty, at least no more so than average. The least civil leaders usually end up small-timers or failures. Think former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO and accused felon Martin Shkreli, who non-testified before a House committee last Thursday morning (pleading the Fifth Amendment in response to questions), then called the committee members “imbeciles” in a tweet that afternoon.
In the survey, half the respondents say they have refused to vote for a candidate in the past because of uncivil behavior. I hope they’re telling the truth and that they’ll keep voting that way.
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What We’re Reading Today
AI vehicles get major lift from regulators
Google received notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, notifying the company that an autonomous Google vehicle can be considered a driver under federal law. This is a monumental notice for Larry Page‘s company and other self-driving vehicle efforts, as federal and state laws have stood in the way of testing the cars on roadways. Fortune
Viacom CEO defends his role
The newly minted chairman of Viacom, CEO Philippe Dauman, was grilled by investors yesterday over the performance of the company’s stock, which has dropped over 50% in one year. He also had to respond to an audience who’s skeptical of Dauman replacing Sumner Redstone as chairman of Viacom due to allegations that he’s not truly independent. Dauman defended his record of building Viacom alongside Redstone and says the company’s performance has been distorted by outside news surrounding the founder’s health and a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend. WSJ
Supreme Court halts Obama’s coal emissions plan
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the plans the Obama administration had laid out to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. It’s a major energy initiative by President Barack Obama, with a goal to reduce 2030 emissions by 32% from 2005 levels. The Supreme Court, approving the stay until it can hear the case, voted along partisan lines. The Daily Mail
Boss of JPMorgan Chase’s ‘London Whale’ fined
Achilles Macris headed a London credit division and oversaw Bruno Iksil, a trader that placed a bet on credit derivatives to help offset JPMorgan’s losses but actually cost the company $6.2 billion in the process. Iksil, nicknamed the London Whale for the bad bet, escaped major punishment by agreeing to a plea deal with regulators, while Macris will have to pay just over $1 million in fines. Jamie Dimon‘s JPMorgan had to pay over $900 million in fines for misstating results and not having proper controls in place. Financial Times
Building a Better Leader
The real reason your employees are quitting
Money is usually one of the last reasons people leave. It has to do more with your culture. USA Today
College costs hit women and minorities greater than white men
It comes down to smaller paychecks. Fortune
Women suffering postpartum depression…
…struggle when they return from maternity leave since they don’t have time to recover. This can lead to setbacks in the mother’s career. Fast Company
The New Hampshire Primary Fallout
Outsider candidates win New Hampshire
As polls expected, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders easily won the New Hampshire primary. Trump walked away with 35% of the vote in a crowded GOP race while Sanders’ near-60% majority sent a strong message to Hillary Clinton. The win provides fuel to the candidates’ fire that they can energize their respective bases enough to win a general election. NYT
A photo finish for second in the Republican race
Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second in the Republican voting, with 16% of the vote. He eked out a win against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who all received at least 10% of the vote. The second-place finish propels Kasich back into the race after a poor showing in Iowa. But it makes it clear that the GOP is divided, allowing outsider candidate Trump to rise. Fortune
Bernie’s win is Clinton’s loss
Despite Sanders holding a large lead in New Hampshire for months, Clinton continued to campaign through yesterday. Her inability to grab even 40% of the vote, however, highlights how difficult it will be for Clinton to connect with younger voters. It also shows Sanders may be reaching people outside his independent bloc, widening his appeal. USA Today
Up or Out
VMWare has named former American Airlines CEO Donald Carty and GoPro President Tony Bates to its board of directors. Fortune
Fortune Reads and Videos
Asahi Group Holdings to buy Peroni and Grolsch beers
The preliminary deal with SABMiller is for $3.5 billion. Fortune
Facebook cools expectations for Oculus
Sheryl Sandberg says it’s a 10-year plan to turn virtual reality into a business. Fortune
Star Wars led Disney to record profits…
…but the stock sank due to ESPN’s performance. Fortune
Martin Shkreli sued…
…for his purchase of an exclusive Wu-Tang Clan album. Fortune
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