Winners never quit and quitters never win, say some motivational speakers, but that’s a poor message for leaders. In real life, the best leaders know there are inevitably times when the wisest move is to step down, step back, or tactically retreat. Look at who’s wrestling with those issues right now.
-The most urgent strategic issue for anti-Trump Republicans is whether it’s smarter to fight him with three challengers or one. He has succeeded so far only because his opposition is splintered. On Super Tuesday, for example, his average share of the vote was just 35%; but the 65% who want someone else split their support among four challengers, so Trump finished first. You can’t help noticing that in the four primaries and caucuses on Saturday after one of those challengers, Ben Carson, dropped out, Trump won only two and Ted Cruz won two. Should John Kasich now drop out ASAP, and maybe even Cruz or Marco Rubio, so Trump’s opposition can consolidate its majority? Or, as Mitt Romney argued last week, should the three remaining challengers all do their best so that no one enters the convention with a majority of delegates? For three of the remaining four, deciding when to drop out will be their most important leadership decision of the campaign.
-Several retail CEOs have made the painful decision to close stores, clearly the right move when the industry is being turned inside out (and when today’s or yesterday’s company leaders didn’t get ahead of the trends). Walmart’s Doug McMillon will close 269 worldwide; J.C. Penney’s Marvin Ellison, 40; Macy’s Terry Lundgren, 25 to 40; Target’s Brian Cornell, 23. Retailers hate doing this, but smart CEOs know that lowering the company’s breakeven point and living to fight another day is a decision best not delayed.
-Should Britain drop out of the European Union? Prime Minister David Cameron and many of Britain’s top CEOs think not; London Mayor Boris Johnson and many other business leaders think it should. Johnson made his case for leaving on the BBC yesterday; Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will presumably argue for staying when he testifies to Parliament tomorrow. The nation will decide in a June 23 referendum. To argue for Brexit is to give up on the brilliant future that Conservative PM Edward Heath promised when the U.K. joined the Common Market, as it then was, in 1973. But plenty of leaders, include many Conservatives, now think it’s best.
-The outstanding departure of the week will likely be Peyton Manning’s announcement today that he’s retiring from football. The decision seems obvious. At age 39, after 18 seasons, coming off his second Super Bowl win, holding a yard-long list of league records, universally hailed as one of the sport’s all-time greats, he had nothing left to accomplish. But even if the move was obvious, we shouldn’t assume it was easy. For leaders, saying goodbye is never easy, even when it’s the right thing.
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What We’re Reading Today
BASF considers counter-proposal for DuPont
Dow Chemical’s Andrew Liveris and DuPont’s Edward Breen have already agreed to a deal that would combine the two companies before splitting them into three entities. But BASF’s Kurt Bock believes in the conglomerate strategy and wouldn’t break up DuPont if he bought it. An offer from BASF could spark an expensive bidding war. DuPont would have to pay a $1.9-billion fee to back out of the deal with Dow. Fortune
Oscar Munoz to return to United Airlines
Munoz has been out on medical leave since suffering a heart attack in October, only a month after becoming CEO, and he had a heart transplant in January. A United Continental board member, he was made CEO after Jeff Smisek became embroiled in an investigation over favors provided to a regulator who oversaw the airline’s Newark hub. While Munoz was on leave, general counsel Brett Hart filled the position. NYT
SoftBank to split
It’s separating its slow-growing Japan mobile business from its overseas operations, which include Sprint in the U.S. SoftBank President Nikesh Arora was named the head of the overseas division, while Ken Miyauchi will run the Japan business. Masayoshi Son‘s SoftBank will retain ownership of both companies. The faster-growing overseas business could eventually be publicly traded. WSJ
Iranian billionaire sentenced to death
Babak Zanjani built a business empire selling Iranian oil even while the country was under economic sanctions. The U.S. and Europe sanctioned Zanjani for helping Iran evade the sanctions, and Iran’s own investigation concluded that he embezzled billions of dollars from Iran’s national oil company, finding him guilty of corruption. Zanjani has maintained his innocence. BBC News
Building a Better Leader
How Microsoft sparks innovation
Todd Rawlings, the senior quality manager for corporate business excellence at Microsoft, talks about how Microsoft built the “Garage” to foster people’s innovations. Knowledge@Wharton
Beware of the growth trap
Startups as well as nearly all Fortune 500 companies are incentivized to grow at all costs, which often leads them into trouble. Fortune
Narcissistic professors give narcissistic students…
…better grades in business school. But a similar pattern may not hold in the workplace. Harvard Business Review
Clinton and Sanders debate in Michigan
As Hillary Clinton‘s lead over Bernie Sanders expands, the two squared off just ahead of the Michigan primary tomorrow. Clinton attacked Sanders for not supporting the auto bailout, which Sanders called a veiled Wall Street bailout. When she interrupted him, he retorted, “Excuse me, I’m talking.” Clinton followed with, “If you’re gonna talk, tell the whole story, Senator Sanders.” The exchanges were sharp but paled in comparison to the GOP’s discussions of hand size. Polls give Clinton a large lead in Michigan. Fortune
Money lines up against Trump
The weekend’s primaries suggested to some Republican analysts that the longer the race continues, the more difficult it will be for Donald Trump to hold his lead. Ted Cruz won handily in Maine and Kansas, and Trump won narrowly in Louisiana and Kentucky. Now outside groups are providing $10 million to fund attack ads in Florida. NYT
Baseball to bind Cuba and the U.S.
When President Barack Obama visits Cuba this month, discussion topics will include allowing Cuban baseball players to sign directly with MLB teams. The Obama administration and Cuban dictator Raul Castro believe baseball could help in normalizing relations. Washington Post
Up or Out
Commerzbank names Martin Zielke CEO. He will succeed Martin Blessing in May. Fortune
PricewaterhouseCoopers named Robert Moritz global chairman, beginning in July. WSJ
Ray Tomlinson, who created modern email, died Saturday at age 74. The Guardian
Fortune Reads and Videos
In order to Flint-proof the nation…
…the country would need to spend $1 trillion updating pipes, and that’s just for starters. Fortune
The big business of curing aging
For tech titans including Peter Thiel and Martine Rothblatt, it has almost become an obsession. Fortune
J.C. Penney doesn’t plan to close more stores
The larger strategy involves CEO Marvin Ellison‘s plans for e-commerce. Fortune
Slack adds native voice chat
It’s a shot at Skype. Fortune
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner turns 74 today. Biography
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|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|