I was having lunch a few days ago with an executive headhunter and a couple of colleagues, talking about the leadership issues in major companies, and as we left, one of them said, “We should congratulate ourselves – we just spent an hour and a half without even mentioning Donald Trump.” It does seem impossible for two or more U.S. adults to meet without talking about him, but in this case there was a larger issue. Our topic was leadership, and it hadn’t occurred to any of us to bring Trump into the discussion. Which raises a significant question: Is Trump a leader?
The sobering answer is yes, of course he is. He has followers, millions of them. What’s more, it isn’t even surprising that he has attracted a giant following. He’s doing the four fundamental things that leaders do, as I’ve elaborated before and won’t repeat here. But while he’s doing what leaders do, he is not doing what winning presidential candidates do as they vie for the world’s most important leadership job. In today’s Super Tuesday primaries and the winner-take-all primaries two weeks from today, Trump could virtually lock up the Republican nomination. If he does, he will have rewritten the rules of how to become a major party’s nominee. We’ll then discover if he can rewrite the rules of becoming president.
The fundamental rule of the past has required a candidate to walk the finest of lines: Show that you’re one with the people while simultaneously being presidential. That’s what Jeb Bush was trying to do, and we saw how far it got him. He talked authoritatively about the most important policy issues while wearing an open-necked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, mentioning his traditional family, speaking Spanish with Spanish-speakers, and generally finding ways to relate to every crowd he was with. Trump is the opposite of all that. He arrives at campaign events in his personal chopper, mentions his Wharton education, doesn’t care who knows about his multiple marriages, and often wears a suit, French-cuffed shirts, and a tie. His policy positions are vague and apparently formed on the spot; rather than talk much about policy at rallies, he’s crude, immature, petty, and clownish. He’s the anti-candidate, and so far that has been his strength.
If he is the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, as now seems most likely, the election will ask voters to choose between the two most disliked candidates since the relevant opinion polls have existed. Those polls suggest that Trump would lose massively. If that were to happen, it would at least confirm that the traditional path to the presidency hasn’t been completely obliterated, considering that Clinton is running a largely conventional campaign based on claims of competence.
But even if Trump wins the nomination and loses the general election, he will force all of us who are interested in leadership to focus on a reality we may sometimes forget: that leadership is not in itself noble or evil, but is a tool that can be used by anyone for any number of purposes.
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What We’re Reading Today
Clinton and Trump expect big gains on Super Tuesday
As voting begins in 12 state primaries and caucuses, experts and polls suggest Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will further solidify their leads. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will be fighting hard just to stay in contention. Cruz is favored in Texas, his home state, which has the largest number of delegates at stake today. WSJ
Valeant Pharmaceuticals is under SEC investigation
On CEO J. Michael Pearson‘s first day back from medical leave, the company reported that it’s under investigation but didn’t specify why. The announcement comes after the company delayed reporting 2015 fourth quarter results and had previously said it was reissuing results from 2014 and 2015 because of accounting errors involving its association with the Philidor pharmacy. The board also announced on Monday that it’s splitting the CEO and chairman roles, replacing Pearson with Robert Ingram as chairman. Fortune
Obama to meet with GOP senators over Supreme Court picks
In a meeting that’s not expected to last long, President Barack Obama will sit down with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to discuss Supreme Court nominees. The Republican senators have already vowed not to consider any potential successor to Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election. This kind of meeting is traditionally where the president and senators exchange their top picks. Washington Times
NYSE considers bid for the London Stock Exchange
The London Stock Exchange is in advanced discussions to merge with Deutsche Boerse for $28 billion. But now the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is said to be considering a bid, though ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher has yet to approach the London Exchange with an offer. The London Exchange will likely wait until March 22, the date of a U.K. deadline for the deal, before making a decision. The Telegraph
Building a Better Leader
The more you multi-task…
…the less you’re able to focus. The practice reduces our ability to focus over time, which means multi-tasking can literally dumb down our brains, says new research. Fast Company
Are we on the verge of an innovation drought?
A prominent economist thinks so, but here’s a counterargument. Fortune
It pays being the “Amazon of” in a new market
India’s Flipkart has raised $3.4 billion, and Coupang in South Korea has raised $1.48 billion. Quartz
Apple and the FBI make their cases to Congress
Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell will argue for Tim Cook and the company that the FBI overstepped its authority by asking the company to make an operating system designed to break into an iPhone. FBI Director James Comey will tell the House Judiciary Committee that asking for the back door to a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone will not set a legal precedent. Yesterday in New York, a federal judge ruled in a separate case that Apple does not need to pull data from a phone per the FBI’s request. Financial Times
Google’s self-driving car gets into a fender-bender
Google admits that this time the vehicle is at least partially to blame for the incident, which involved a city bus. The Google car was only going 2 mph at the time of the crash while the bus was traveling 15 mph. No injuries were reported. Larry Page‘s company had reported 17 minor crashes before this incident, but this is the first case in which the vehicle was likely partially at fault. CNN Money
China to lay off 5 million to 6 million state workers
President Xi Jinping will lead the layoffs over the next two to three years, spending $23 billion to cover the costs. The layoffs will occur in the coal and steel sectors, and the number will likely increase as the state tries to get rid of “zombie” firms, or companies that aren’t operating but remain staffed because of government concerns about the impact of unemployment. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had warned of the move in December; it’s the largest such state cutback in nearly two decades. Reuters
Up or Out
Target has hired Arthur Valdez as its chief supply chain and logistics officer. WSJ
Fortune Reads and Videos
Barclays to sell stake in African business
It’s an exit by one of the few international banks that operates on the continent. Fortune
China has at least 50 million vacant homes
That spells good news to one Chinese home sharing startup. Fortune
Yahoo says it might write off Tumblr
The write-off would come just over two years after Yahoo bought the microblogging site for $1.1 billion. Fortune
On this day…
…in 1995, Jerry Yang and David Filo incorporated the web portal Yahoo. Columbia Journalism Review
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