Leadership is often about combat—that’s why we look to generals and admirals for leadership lessons—and today’s news offers four instructive examples:
-Apple CEO Tim Cook vs. the FBI and director James Comey. Apple filed court papers on Thursday in its escalating fight with the FBI over opening a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. The filing, which seeks to vacate a court order and is a riposte to an FBI filing last week, is hard-hitting, arguing that “the unprecedented order requested by the government finds no support in the law and would violate the Constitution.” It’s becoming clear that a central question in the case may be a technological one: The FBI contends that the new software it wants Apple (AAPL) to write could be created in a way that would affect only the phone in question; Apple in its new filing says obeying the court order would render all iPhones vulnerable to “hackers, identity thieves, and unwarranted government surveillance.”
-Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer vs. Starboard Value Fund’s Jeff Smith. He has launched a proxy fight against Yahoo (YHOO) and within a month will presumably nominate a slate of directors to replace Yahoo’s board. The New York Post reports that Mayer has spent this week in New York City courting big institutional shareholders whose votes will help decide the proxy fight’s outcome; Yahoo declined to comment on the Post’s report. Mayer is in the decidedly odd position of trying to persuade major shareholders that, given time, her turnaround plan will increase the company’s value, while back home on the West Coast a special committee of the board is accepting bids from potential buyers of the businesses that Mayer wants to turn around. One more wrinkle: Fortune’s Dan Primack reports that Mayer herself might want to lead a private equity purchase of Yahoo, and famed investment banker Frank Quattrone is contacting PE firms on her behalf.
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-President Obama vs. Senate Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Obama is determined to show he isn’t cowed by McConnell’s insistence that the Senate won’t hold hearings on anyone the president nominates to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Obama was reportedly considering nominating Nevada Republican governor Brian Sandoval—an extremely neat bit of jiu-jitsu that would have put McConnell in a corner. But it didn’t work; Sandoval on Thursday publicly took himself out of consideration. The next move is Obama’s.
-FIFA vs. a skeptical world. The governing body of the planet’s most popular sport, engulfed in a mammoth corruption scandal, will elect a new president on Friday to succeed Sepp Blatter, who steadfastly insists that he knew nothing about multi-million-dollar bribes that allegedly pervaded FIFA’s top echelons during his 18-year tenure. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted several current and former FIFA officials on bribery and money-laundering charges, and the Swiss attorney general’s office has launched criminal proceedings against Blatter for “criminal mismanagement…and misappropriation.” FIFA needs a whistle-clean election and an undisputed result on Friday to begin regaining trust. I won’t be easily convinced. Who would be?