Power Sheet – March 14, 2016
Breaking with my nearly unswerving policy of looking forward in these ramblings, I want to glance briefly backward this morning in hopes of discovering one or two valuable lessons.
-I was wrong about Donald Trump’s motivations in running for president, I learned in yesterday’s New York Times. I had long held that his run was a publicity move that got out of hand. Trump’s great business innovation was the concept of branded luxury residential real estate, and the brand is his name. So for 40 years he has been finding ways to get the media to pay attention to him, thus growing more famous and building the brand. Running for president, a notion he has toyed with before, fit the pattern perfectly. My hypothesis suggested that he never intended to become the nominee, and I found that real estate veterans who know him agreed.
But he did intend to win, in fact wanted to win more desperately than virtually anyone but a close circle of advisers realized, as the Times makes clear in a substantial article. It pegs the decisive moment as the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, which Trump attended and at which President Obama gave a speech filled with jokes at Trump’s expense. We’ll never know whether that humiliation was the spark – Trump denies it – but it coincided with the launch of a well coordinated four-year offensive, involving pollsters, strategists, and others, focused on getting him where he is today. Even back then, an adviser envisioned on his website “a Trump candidacy steamrolling to the nomination, powered by wall-to-wall media attention,” the article reports.
This goes a long way toward explaining the Trump phenomenon and answering the great question of why his opponents and Republican Party leaders didn’t take him seriously sooner. The answer is that, first, they assumed his outrageous statements would doom him, and second, that in any case he didn’t actually want to be president. It all made sense, which is why no one looked deeper or discovered that an intensely serious campaign apparatus – and more important, a burning desire – was driving him.
-Former Johnson & Johnson CEO Ralph Larsen died last week, a passing that was unfortunately overlooked in the hurly burly of election news. He wasn’t a celebrity CEO, and he certainly didn’t seek attention. But he was an exemplary leader who should be remembered for many reasons – especially, in my view, for saying this while talking about J&J’s famous credo, set down by Robert Wood Johnson in 1943: “The core values in our credo might be a competitive advantage, but that is not why we have them. We have them because they define for us what we stand for, and we would hold them even if they became a competitive disadvantage for us in certain situations.” That statement was recorded by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, co-authors of the bestseller Built to Last. Lots of CEOs today rhapsodize about their corporate values, then point out that, by the way, they’re also good for business. Larsen is the only one I know who said his company’s value were simply “what we stand for” regardless of whether they’re good for business. That’s an extremely powerful stance. If only more leaders had his courage.
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Michael Goguen has been fired as a partner at Sequoia Capital in the wake of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. CNBC
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