Fortune Editor-at-Large Jennifer Reingold is filling in for Geoff Colvin, who is off this week.
This weekend represented a new low when it comes to Donald Trump’s ability to lead, as he decided to take on the parents of a Gold Star family. Trump, it seems, simply does not have the ability to be shamed. And here’s why that matters.
Shame is generally viewed as a negative experience. It’s a type of humiliation, usually first experienced at a young age, used to bind people to particular cultural or religious mores. In this era of trigger warnings and safe spaces, shame has been discarded as the provenance of judgmental people who would force you to be one thing or another.
But the inability to feel shame is something different. The Buddhists have a Sanskrit word for it, ahirika—roughly, the lack of conscientiousness. It is ahirika that best defines the campaign of Donald Trump, and which has, in part, propelled him to success. It is also this ahirika that, I believe, is the single most frightening aspect of Trump as a potential leader of the free world.
There is no more relevant example than Trump’s response to being called out at the DNC by the parents of Humayun Khan, the Muslim-American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in 2004. After his father, Khizr, delivered a blistering attack on Trump’s views about Muslims, Trump first insulted Khan’s mother, who stood silently while her husband, Khizr, spoke, insinuating that she was not allowed to speak because of her religion. Trump then said Mr. Khan had “no right” to criticize him, and finally, compared his own work as a businessman to the “sacrifices” made by the bereaved parents.
His response was disrespectful, defensive, and—at least to most of us watching—shameful.
But Trump does not seem to have the shame gene. In his world, it is better to hit back with a baser insult than to stand down. It is better to refuse to apologize than to admit a mistake. But there’s more to it than not wanting to be wrong. It is that he doesn’t think he IS wrong. He seems to truly believe that his bravado will carry him beyond any mistakes. And so far, he has been right. Believe me.
I can’t think of too many successful business leaders that have employed the ahirika strategy. But I can think of many of them that used it to early success and ultimate failure (Al Dunlap, the former CEO of Scott Paper, comes immediately to mind). Strength is important in a leader. But strength without values is not strength. And the ability to know when you’ve messed up—and, in turn, feel badly about it via shame—allows a leader to change direction before it’s too late. It’s not an ability Donald Trump appears to have.
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What We’re Reading Today
Uber sells its China business for $35 billion
Travis Kalanick‘s company is selling the Chinese unit to Jean Liu‘s Didi Chuxing. It’s a combination of two rivals that bitterly battled to develop China’s share riding market. Didi chairman Cheng Wei will join Uber’s board as part of the deal and Kalanick will join Didi’s board. CNBC
Tesla, Solar City agree to $2.6 billion merger
It will combine two of Elon Musk‘s companies. It’s a move many Tesla investors questioned since it’s unclear how the two companies work together and whether SolarCity is a smart investment since it lacks profits. Musk believes the two companies can be vertically integrated around solving sustainable energy problems. An independent committee at Tesla determined whether the merger would proceed, without Musk’s input. WSJ
Trump advisor’s Ukraine ties
Paul Manafort has become one of Donald Trump‘s most important advisors as campaign chairman, but prior to his recent role, he served as a consultant to former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych fled to Russia following violent protests in Ukraine, Manafort helped rebuild the political party that supported the ousted president by opposing the newly formed, pro-Western government. Manafort’s ties to Russia have come under question as Trump has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian hackers have been accused of breaching the Democratic National Committee. NYT
Building a Better Leader
The future of work won’t just be shaped by technology and globalization
“[T]he biggest in my view has been ideology, the shift from the idea that business had a responsibility to all stakeholders toward the idea that they have responsibility only to one – shareholders,” says Wharton professor Peter Cappelli. Knowledge@Wharton
First time founder’s advice: You will feel incompetent
Co-founder of Clara Labs Maran Nelson says that founders who don’t realize this, won’t grow. Fortune
70 tech startups and VC firms will give time off for the election
Companies, such as Spotify and SurveyMonkey.com, say employees can have the entire day, if needed, to vote. Bloomberg
GlaxoSmithKline and Alphabet team up
Andrew Witty‘s drug developer and Verily Life Sciences, a unit of Larry Page‘s Alphabet, will build a new company with a focus on bioelectronics, or targeting electrical signals in the body to fight disease. The two sides will contribute $715 million to the endeavor, with GSK owning 55% of the new company. Reuters
Uber invests $500 million in maps
In other Uber news, Travis Kalanick‘s company wants to reduce its reliance on other mapping firms, like Google. Uber’s head of mapping Brian McClendon says that Uber’s mapping cars will expand to U.S. and Mexico this summer. It’s also an effort by Uber to separate further from Google, since both companies are working to develop self-driving vehicles, which need detailed mapping-technology. Fortune
Startups opting for buyouts over IPOs
A string of recent buyouts, including Unilever’s $1 billion purchase of Michael Dubin‘s Dollar Shave Club, has left the IPO market unable to compete with firms throwing large swaths of cash at companies to remain unlisted. It’s the slowest year for the IPO market since 2009, which is further exasperated by private equity firms looking for quick sales of investments, instead of posting a public offering. WSJ
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Saatchi & Saatchi chairman placed on leave after sexist remarks
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Elon Musk confirms Tesla’s Minibus
It will be unveiled next year and is modeled after the Volkswagen buses of the 1960s. Fortune
Kanye West says Apple must buy Tidal
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Quote of the Day
“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party…While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.” — Senator John McCain, responding to comments Trump made towards Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Muslim parents to a U.S. soldier that died in combat. CNN